Research analyzes defenders of bullying victims

Roberto Hodge, Multicultural Editor

Recent studies have begun to look at defenders of victims who have been bullied, which have shown correlation between the two.

Lyndsay Jenkins, an assistant professor of psychology, said she has been doing bullying research for many years now and studies have just recently begun to look at defenders.

Jenkins, who shared her research during the Bullying Prevention Conference on Friday, said bullying is multifaceted because it is not just about the bully and the victim; the area now entails assistants of bullies, outsiders who watch the bullying happen and the defender of the victim.

“There’s so much research on victims and bullies; it’s so much bigger than that—it’s not just all about two people,” Jenkins said.

Researchers have shown that even teachers take a sort of outsider approach to bullying, as some of them do not even acknowledge its presence, Jenkins said.

Jenkins said the bullying roles of defender, victim, assistant and bully can overlap emotionally.

She said a high correlation exists between the bully and the assistant, as there is speculation that the two roles may occasionally switch.

Some days the bully may become the assistant and vice versa; this is possibly true with the victim and defender, which she said might be the intersectionality of the victim-defender.

Jenkins said emotionally, the defender is high on the social cognitive, support and skills level as well as a feeling of understanding for others; however, the victim is found to be low on all of those levels.

Researchers have also found that those who have been victims turned defender or vise versa show some moderate and high emotional similarities to defenders, as both show high empathy.

“You have to feel bad for somebody before you’re going to want to help them,” Jenkins said.

Roberto Hodge can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]