In the battle against bullying, it helps to teach victims that people can change, concludes research by David Yeager, a Stanford graduate student.
“When adolescents think that victimization is something that is permanent—resulting from the belief that bullies are ‘bad’ people who won’t stop, and that victims will always be ‘losers’—then they seek more drastic, vengeful solutions to their conflicts,” said Yeager, a student in the Development and Psychological Sciences doctoral program. “But when they believe that people have the potential for change—both they themselves and the people who treat them badly—then victimization seems less like a diagnosis of their future, and more like something that will pass. Hence, it becomes less stressful and less threatening.”
In one study, high school students taught about people’s potential for change were less aggressive a month later than students taught coping skills. By the end of the semester, “the message about personal change also reduced absences, suspensions for fighting, and depression among victimized students. ” At a different high school, victims in the “change” group reported less stress and higher grades.