Nicknames & Bullying

In addition to the information below, I was privileged to discuss this topic February 24, 2012, on The Morning Blend, Milwaukee’s WTMJ TV4. You may see the interview by clicking here.

From the British Journal of Educational Psychology

Name-calling, unkind nicknames and other forms of verbal harassment represent some of the most prevalent forms of bullying in school but they have been little studied. Name-calling and nicknames in particular are ambiguous social events that can serve positive as well as negative goals, and their adverse consequences can be difficult to identify.

(i) To assess the incidence of nicknames and name calling as reported by a sample of primary school children;
(ii) to examine the kinds of names reported by children, and to relate these to names reported in other social contexts;
(iii) to explore the impact that name-calling and nicknames have on children.

Pupils (N = 60) from the top two classes in a British primary school completed a questionnaire; 20 of the children were subsequently interviewed. Method. Pupils completed a questionnaire that was constructed for this study. Pupils were asked to provide examples of nicknames and to report on the types and incidence of several forms of verbal harassment. The interview included questions which aimed to explore the children’s reactions to harassment.

Being called disliked nicknames, called names, teased, and other forms of verbal harassment were reported by most of the sample, with more than 20% of children experiencing nasty comments and unkind nicknames on a daily basis. Girls reported more disliked nicknames than boys. The most common nicknames referred to the child’s appearance, whereas nasty comments and untrue stories contained a preponderance of sexual references. In the interview, nearly all children reported that being called names and nicknames were negative experiences that caused distress.

Name-calling and the assignment of unkind nicknames are prevalent and hurtful features of school life. The kinds of names are similar to those reported in other studies of children, adolescents, and adults. It is proposed that these names are hurtful because they threaten the child’s identity.

For additional consideration

Almost everyone knows a story about a painful nickname being generated on the playground, or somewhere at school. Name-calling enables the bully to control and manipulate the nicknamed, as well as other kids.

The bully often has the most self-esteem and the least amount of self-esteem simultaneously. How and why? Because he/she has enough self-esteem to own being the bully, but low-esteem because he/she has a need to defeat other people in order to establish their own self-esteem.

The nicknamed – begins to wonder – am I fatso – would I rather be known as fatso than nobody? Today’s compromise (devaluing your self) quickly becomes tomorrow’s personality trait. Kids get stuck and don’t grow – some of the most immature people are 80 years old. There is no relationship between age and maturity. If you allow yourself to live into the bad nickname, you don’t grow emotionally. You get stuck, and even bury the pain.

The participants – Nicknames are not generated in isolation. It takes others to perpetuate them. A recent survey said the other kids who observe the bully giving the nickname “do nothing” or “watch and see what happens”. They are complicit, triangulate and enable the nickname to continue, by virtue of not standing up for the nicknamed. To stand up for the nicknamed is to stand up for yourself – it’s ultimately a personal integrity issue.

Suicide – kids with self-esteem and hope do not commit suicide. There is a fundamental relationship between hope and ethics, because hopeless people become unethical .

Self-esteem – We are all damaged by life; it is simply a question of degree, and whether or not we chose to grow through it. In this sense, self-acceptance is a profound act of faith. Mature people choose to grow, plain and simple.

Control – Kids are not discerning who they give their power away to. If you give your power away, people will take it – especially someone with the bully profile.

The parents – frequently and ironically, the parents of the bully are likely aware but damaged enough themselves to be willing to do anything about it. The parents of the nicknamed are left to assess the pain and damage inflicted upon their child.

Some internet based links and resources about bullying nationwide and in Wisconsin

Nationally, from the U.S. Government

From the Wisconsin Medical Journal

Other resources from Wisconsin