In an era when Michelle Obama (and just about every other moral crusader) is talking about the importance of food and exercise on how kids perform in school, have we forgotten about sleep?
some scientists are claiming that bullying behavior might be strongly linked with sleep deprivation. The study claims that sleep deprivation can affect regions of the brain that are important for emotional regulation and decision-making.
A lot of this makes sense on an intuitive level. Speaking from personal experience, I know that my sleep patterns greatly influence how I feel the following morning. I don't have it down to an exact science, but if I get less than 5 hours of sleep, I notice that I have less energy, less patience, and occasionally, will feel more irritable than if I were to get a solid 6+ hours of sleep.
Also, I've also figured out that the timing of my sleep matters as well. If I get to sleep by midnight or 1am, I typically will wake up the following morning feeling refreshed and ready to start a new day. However, if I go to sleep at 4am, it seems like the quantity of my sleep has little effect on how I feel: Whether it's 3 or 6 hours, I feel tired as hell...
So, on multiple levels, the idea that sleep influences a person's emotional state and their decision-making seems like a plausible explanation. However, as a sociologist, I can't help but think that some important social stuff is missing in this sort of explanation. Bullying is much more than emotional instability and poor decision-making, right? And my best guess is that there are lots of sleepy children who never become bullies. So, what else could be at stake here?
From what I can gather, bullying--like other forms of violence--carries a special charm to those who do it. Bullying is one way for kids to become infamous. Infamy--the mean cousin of fame--is a powerfully alluring quality in its own right. If you can't be famous, infamy is the best thing, right? To some, infamy might even be more attractive than being famous.
Curtis Jackson-Jacobs, a brilliant sociologist, has written widely about the allure of physical violence to young men. Through very in-depth participant-observation, Jackson-Jacobs shows us how and why a group of white, middle class guys from Arizona get into lots of fights. At risk of simplifying his work, Jackson-Jacobs reminds us that violence can be enthralling and fun to those who are willing to give it a try.
Anyways, what are your thoughts? Anybody have funny stories involving bullying or being bullied? If so, I'd love to hear them!
Also, one more thing: Bullies should beware of who they try to bully. Here is a great video clip of a guy who seems to be bullying another guy (who then busts out some kung fu)...