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A highly controversial topic and a common occurrence in schools is the act of bullying. Bullying can happen in all sorts of forms, and can be very damaging for the victim. Early adolescence is a time where children are beginning to find who they are, and in the process they may experiment with different peer groups, attitudes, and habits. In this paper I will explore the developmental theories and theatrical perspectives that offer explanations about why early adolescents are susceptible to bullying.
Early adolescence falls between the ages of 10-14 years. During these years, the child is most likely to be in middle school and early high school. Physically, the children in this stage are beginning to notice a big change in their bodies, which is described as puberty. During puberty, females begin to grow breasts and begin their menstrual cycles, and both sexes experience growth spurts and increased appetites. This is a time that many adolescents look and feel awkward, and they may start experience hormonal mood swings. Cognitively, children are starting to develop the ability to think and reason about abstract ideas, and they are able to be introduced to advanced academic content. Drastic changes in socio-emotional development also happens during this developmental stage. During this time, adolescents begin to develop sexual interest with the opposite sex or same sex, often become self-conscious about their appearance and attitudes, and begin to challenge authority. Early adolescents are more prone to peer pressure because they become concerned with “fitting in” with their peers.
According to Erikson’s stage of psychosocial development, early adolescence is a stage in which children begin to battle identity vs. role confusion. This means that this is the time in which children begin to have the urge to find who they are and where they fit in, and to do this they must experience a period of role confusion. During this period of role confusion, adolescents experience mixed feelings about where they fit in society, and begin to experiment with different peer groups, attitudes, and actions. This stage is important for adolescents to experience because as a result of trying out many different things they will eventually develop a sense of identity.
Vygotsky’s theory of cognitive development explains that in order for children to mature, they must have adult assistance. The realm in which children can perform certain tasks only with assistance is called the Zone of Proximal Development. This can range from simple tasks at childhood, to political ideals and opinions in adolescents. As a result of ZPD, through both informal and formal schooling, adults convey to children the ways in which the child interprets the world. This can have a connection with bullying if the adults in children’s lives inflict certain beliefs that makes them think that bullying another person is okay.
On April 20, 2010, a 14 year old girl with cerebral palsy attempted to jump out of a window at her school after she was knocked off her crutches and kicked repeatedly in the forehead by one of her classmates (Green, 2010). It is very common that a student is bullied if they have a trait that is obviously different than the other students, like having a disability. There are many reasons why early adolescents would bully another students with a disability. According to Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development, because adolescents are so focused on fitting in during this stage, they might bully somebody who is different because they think that this is wrong to be different. They also might bully because they want to show off to their peers, and to show their fellow students that they are “cool”. In addition, they are more apt to want to challenge authority and they may do it just because they know that bullying is not allowed in schools. According to Vygotsky’s theory of cognitive development, children may overhear other adults making fun of or speaking poorly of people with disabilities, and this could give children the mindset that it is okay to bully somebody who is different. Parents could also know that bullying is occurring and not do anything about it. Either way, bullying is a very serious issue that should not be taken lightly. Early adolescence are very prone to bullying, and because of the low self-esteem that many young adolescents have, bullying has the potential to drive the victims to do anything to escape it- even suicide.
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