Study Says Bullies May Lack a Sense of School-Belonging

Updated: July 31, 2019
Researchers have found that students who feel a greater sense of belonging with their peers, family, and school community are less likely to become bullies.
bully sitting alone at school

In a climate of increasing violence and school shootings, it seems there has never been a more important time to understand the roots of bullying. As parents, we worry about bullying on several levels. We want to keep our kids from being bullied, we want to make sure they are not bullying others, and we want to feel like the school community - including ourselves as parents - is doing everything possible to create a safe and positive environment for all.

Thanks to this recent study posted in ScienceDaily, we’ve learned that University of Missouri-Columbia researchers have found some key findings about the causes of bullying. Most importantly, these findings provide us with actionable steps that we can take as parents to help prevent bullying. To sum it up, researchers have found that students who feel a greater sense of belonging with their peers, family, and school community are less likely to become bullies.

What does a greater sense of belonging really mean?

A greater sense of belonging simply means that students feel supported and accepted. Students should feel encouraged and that they fit within these three units: peers, family, and school community. Showing compassion to students and making an effort to provide them with a safe and accepting space promotes this feeling of a greater sense of belonging.

What can parents do to prevent bullying?

As the article states, “The results indicate that the more a student feels like they belong among their peers and family, the more likely they will feel like they belong at school.” Basically, the process of preventing bullying begins at home. The more we help our children feel like they belong within our family, and the more compassion and support we provide them with, the more likely they will feel a sense of belonging at school as well. This, in turn, means they are less likely to engage in bullying behaviors. It’s all part of a trickle down effect from the sense of belonging students feel at home.

How do parents provide children with a greater sense of belonging at home?

1. Organize activities that cater to each of your children’s interests.

Sometimes it’s easy to let one sibling’s interests and activities dominate family life. This could happen during a particular sports season, or a time of competition if your child participates in activities like dance or figure skating, or even if your child is performing in an upcoming show. These are only a few examples of more intense times when one child in the family’s interests may take precedent for the family and keep another child from focusing on their own interests. Be sure that each child in your family has interests that they can pursue at any given time.

2. Make sure the entire family supports each child’s interests.

As stated by Christopher Slaten, an associate professor in the MU School of Education: 

"If you have children with varying interests, it might be beneficial to suggest the whole family get together to attend each other's events and activities, even if it doesn't please the whole crowd every time," Slaten said. "By encouraging siblings to support each other, parents can help their children feel like their interests are accepted and that they fit within the family unit."

It’s not just about parental support. Sibling support matters too.

3. Be an active member of your child’s school community.

If you feel like there aren’t clubs or activities or safe spaces that provide your children with what they need at school, work with them to speak up for these needs or speak with leaders in the school community yourself. If your child’s only true passion is something that isn’t represented by a school club, help start that club. It will enable your child to meet like-minded peers and bridge the greater sense of belonging at home to the peer and school community.

The prevention of bullying begins at home. Fortunately, we can be proactive as parents to help our children feel like they belong at home, with friends, and at school. Every step we take towards preventing bullying helps to create a safer and healthier environment both for our own children and for all who make up their school community. 

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