Kathryn Seifert, author of Youth Violence and a psychotherapist, author, speaker, and researcher specializing in family violence and trauma, discusses bullying and its current role in the media.
SpringBoard: What do you think of the new documentary Bully? Do you think it effectively pushes its cause?
KS: I have not seen the movie but saw a documentary on the movie. My impression is that it is well done and important. This movie focuses on the pain experienced by victims. Wider understanding and empathy for the victims of bullies is definitely needed. Movies have such a huge reach and the potential to influence culture in a positive way is great. It is a wonderful way to get the message out that bullying harms children.
SpringBoard: How do you feel about the way that the media has latched on to the bullying topic and do you think it accurately represents bullies and the current state of bullying?
KS: I think it is important that the media continue to highlight the problem. It will not change until the culture, schools and families understand the harm that bullying does to others. The media is how we get everyone’s attention and push our culture toward a solution.
SpringBoard: Is there an unsettling link between the inclination to bully and the likelihood of success or leadership (as the current Mitt Romney story on his high school “pranks” is the latest to suggest)? If so, why and is this unique to American society?
KS: Bullies tend to not have very sophisticated social, organizational, or leadership skills. They have anger and control problems. I have worked on some limited research that children that are bullied tend to take two different paths. Those that have the support of adults to heal from bullying and learn new skills sometimes become leaders or enter the helping professions. Those children that were bullied, but had no support form adults to heal from their trauma and learn new skills, will tend to become bullies themselves. In the case of a bully who is following the crowd, but has no other serious problems, he will likely mature and “grow out” of bullying because he learns to use discussion to solve problems and differences.
To read more about Youth Violence: Theory, Prevention, and Intervention, by Kathryn Seifert, click here.
Kathryn Seifert, PhD, is Executive Director of Eastern Shore Psychological Services, a private practice that focuses on serving children, adolescents, and at-risk youth and their families. She is a psychotherapist, author, speaker, and researcher specializing in family violence and trauma. She has over 30 years of experience in mental health, addictions, and criminal justice work. She has published numerous articles on violence, risk, and trauma, and is the author of CARE (Child and Adolescent Risk for Evaluation: A Measure of the Risk for Violent Behavior), a manual and assessment tool kit that allows mental health professionals to understand the risk of potential violence in youth. The kit is widely used and trusted as a premier risk assessment test in the industry. Besides CARE, Dr. Seifert has authored and published a training DVD on disrupted attachment patterns and a book entitled How Children Become Violent. She has lectured nationally and internationally. She is past President of the Maryland Psychological Association.