Bullying is an age-old problem that has traditionally been seen as "normal," as par-for-the-course of childhood and youth, at times even depicted as a rite-of-passage with "character building" benefits. More recently, however, we understand it as a public health issue with potentially serious long-term problems for health and well-being that include stress, self-harm, anxiety, and depression. This is true of perpetrators as well as victims, who often suffer negative long-term consequences. Of concern, Canada is currently ranked 21st and 26th out of 40 participating countries on the proportion of boys and girls involved in bullying; several UNICEF studies have found comparable results. As a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, Canada is failing in its duty to protect children and youth from abuse.
Faye Mishna and Melissa Van Wert provide a well-organized, multidimensional overview of bullying in this introductory text, the first book of its kind to look specifically at the Canadian context. Drawing on the most up-to-date research, including the Health Behavior in School-Age Children survey and recent parliamentary reviews, Mishna and Van Wert consider specific facts about Canada. These include societal norms and characteristics, marginalization of certain communities, immigration and diversity, socio-economic indicators, and urban-rural demographics, all factors that can influence bullying dynamics. The authors also consider otherpotential contributors, such as physical appearance, learning abilities or developmental challenges, sexual orientation, and family dynamics. Mishna and Van Wert devote an entire chapter to the latest research on cyber bullying, a relatively new problem that has arisen in the wake of social media and information and communication technologies.
Addressing bullying behaviour is rarely a simple matter, but research shows that a holistic concept of the individual is the best starting point. Afinal chapter gives an excellent review of what works. Mishna and Van Wert support the concept of treating bullying as a relational problem among individuals, within a network of interacting contexts. They draw on an ecological theoretical framework, a roadmap that helps us think about young people as developing within multiple layers of socialization - the personal, the familial, the social, and even the cyber. Mishna and Van Wert provide an overview of strategies and initiatives, such as PREVNet and the Roots of Empathy, and also provide a set of seven guidelines that teachers, parents, and administrators will find essential.
A crucial part of promoting the healthy development of Canadian children and youth involves promoting positive early relationships and addressing bullying behaviour. Putting an end to aggression fundamentally improves human interaction and socialization, and can impact our long-term health and well-being. Our values as a nation compel us to confront incidents, improve education, and establish preventative measures, and our legal duties require us to protect our children.
About the Authors:
Faye Mishna is Dean and Professor, at the Factor Inwentash Faculty of Social Work, University of Toronto and is cross-appointed to the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Toronto. She holds the Margaret and Wallace McCain Family Chair in Child and Family. Prior to joining the Faculty, she was Clinical Director of Integra, a children's mental health centre serving children and youth with learning disabilities. She is a Fellow of the International Academy for Research in LearningDisabilities. Professor Mishna's program of research is focused on: bullying; cyber abuse/cyber bullying and cyber counselling; and school-based interventions for students with learning disabilities. An integral component of her research entails collaboration with community agencies and organizations. Her scholarly publications have focused on bullying, social work education and clinical practice.
Melissa Van Wert is a PhD Student at University of Toronto and a Research Associate with the 2008 Canadian Incidence Study of Reported Child Abuse and Neglect. Melissa has research experience in a variety of areas, and has worked with children and adolescents across numerous settings. She also has experience in coordinating Journal Watch, an inter-university learning partnership between the CRCF at McGill University and the Faculty of Social Work at University of Toronto.