Revenge of the Nerds: Childhood Bullies Often Jobless Adults
WebMD News Archive
Aug. 3, 2000 -- The next time your kid gets harassed by a bully, tell him to
try this taunt: Ha-ha, you'll be un-em-ploy-oyed. Although that's not the
predetermined outcome, a new Finnish study says that unless parents step in to
change their child's bullying ways, that child may have a rough road ahead.
According to a report in the July issue of Developmental Psychology,
aggressive behavior among 8-year-olds is linked with difficulties later in
life. "Our study showed that childhood aggression can start a whole cycle
of problems, such as poor school performance, alcohol abuse, and adult
unemployment," says lead author Katja Kokko, MA, a psychologist and
doctoral candidate at the University of Jyvaskyla in Finland.
"But there's plenty of hope for aggressive kids, because we also showed
that good parenting can interfere with this cycle," she tells WebMD.
To understand the long-term effects of childhood aggression, Kokko and
colleagues followed almost 400 people from 1968. With teacher reports,
interviews, and questionnaires, researchers gathered information on their
social behavior, school performance, alcohol use, and work history from ages 8
to 36. The people in the study also described memories of their childhood
environment when they were adults.
The data showed that hurting, teasing, or otherwise aggressive behavior
toward others at age 8 was strongly related to poor school performance at age
14, problem drinking at age 27, and long-term unemployment at age 36. But among
the formerly aggressive people, those with high levels of parental support were
significantly more likely to be employed.
So if your child is aggressive with others, what can you do? "Kids who
lack impulse control don't need any prompting, so, first and foremost,
eliminate physical punishment and restrict their exposure to media
violence," says clinical psychologist Laura Mee, PhD, an assistant
professor of psychiatry at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta.
Mee also has these other suggestions:
Teach them to stop and think by counting to five or taking a deep
breath before acting.
Build their sense of empathy by discussing how physical aggression
Praise them for good behavior by making three positive comments for