Monday, 6 May 2013
Bullying at home
One of the difficulties I find when trying to debate with home educating parents is that they often seem to have a distorted view of the world; a view which blinds them to things which are perfectly plain to everybody else in the country. Take the question of bullying, for example. I remarked yesterday that most bullying of children takes place in their home and is inflicted by parents and carers. Almost incredibly, there was immediate disagreement! The reason for this is of course simple. It is an article of faith among many home educators that schools are dangerous places, in contrast to homes which is where children may be kept safe. Because of this, there is a tendency to exaggerate hazards in schools and minimise those faced by children at home. Common sense, backed up by all the available evidence, suggests that home is far more dangerous for most children than school.
Bullying is the use of force, strength or influence to intimidate and coerce others who are weaker than the one doing the bullying. Yesterday, somebody posted some research on here which was so ludicrously irrelevant to the debate, that I was somewhat at a loss to know how to respond; not a common occurrence on this blog! Those conducting the research had defined bullying as something done by children:
‘Respondents were asked whether they were bullied, discriminated against, or made to feel different, like an outsider by other children.’
Not surprisingly, this survey had gone on to reveal that bullying was something done by children. Obvious really; if you only ask about bullying in relation to other children, then bullying will inevitably emerge as a school problem, rather than one at home. 90% of those asked had claimed to come from warm and loving homes. This settled the matter, at least to the satisfaction of the person who put the results of this research on the comment; homes are loving and warm and bullying takes place at school. This is of course sheer Alice in Wonderland. People are asked if they have been bullied by other children and this is then used to prove that bullying is an activity carried out by other children. Let us look at the genuine and sustained bullying to which most children are routinely subjected; bullying which has nothing to do with other children and actually takes place in their homes.
The worst sort of bullying involves the use or threat of violence against the victim. The bully uses superior strength to push the victim around and make her do as she is told. Here are a few surveys that readers might like to examine:
As we can see, for children who experience physical violence; 80% of it is in their home. There are a couple of surveys covering around two and a half thousand people in total which suggest that between 67% and 80% of parents have hit their children. It is interesting to think about those 90% of people in the research quoted yesterday who claimed to have come from warm and loving homes. 90% of people also claim to have been hit by their parents when they were children. In other words; 90% of adults were bullied by their parents when they were little.
I don’t propose to waste too much time on this, because the case is so clear. Bullying children, by using physical violence on them to make them do as others wish, is endemic in this country. 90% of adults have been victims of this bullying and it still happens to between 70% and 80% of children. (Other surveys sometimes find higher or lower rates, but I cannot find one where fewer than 25% of parents admit to striking their children). This is bullying in its worst form; not merely the threat of force, but the actual use of violence. This bullying usually takes place in the home and is inflicted by the adults who are close to the child. It results in many serious injuries and not a few deaths. Every three weeks, a child under the age of five in this country dies as a result of a violent attack. In 80% of these deaths, the parents or carer is the attacker.
I do not think that any of this has much bearing on home education, other than to show that many home educating parents have a skewed perspective about risks to children. They have a vested interest in portraying schools as dangerous places for children, but the reality is that for the overwhelming majority of children, their home is the place where they are pushed around and assaulted; bullied and intimidated into submission. I have only looked here at the most extreme form of bullying; that involving physical violence. Add in the name-calling, belittling and humiliation that are often mentioned in surveys about bullying and I can't help wondering how far short of 100% the figure for the bullying of children by parents would be.