Stephen Colbert may not have known what empathy was at the start of this clip about bullying, but he gets a little taste of it toward the end.
As Colbert interviews Emily Bazelon about her new book, Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy, he stops her with a burning question.
“Do you think I’m a bully?” he asks.
Her response sets Colbert into an emotional tailspin.
What makes someone a bully? And how do we fix it? These are two of the main questions Bazelon, a senior editor at Slate magazine, addresses in her book that was inspired by her own personal experiences of being bullied growing up.
The problem isn’t just limited to schools. According to a recent post by Bazelon on Slate, a study conducted by Duke University that followed 1,270 children over the course of 20 years shows that bullying can lead to deeper psychological problems later in life.
The results showed that kids who were both bullies and victims tended to have “the most serious psychological problems as kids.” This group also showed up with “higher levels of anxiety, depressive disorders, and suicidal thinking as adults.”
The group of kids who were victims experienced a heightened risk of depression and anxiety, while the bullies were most likely to have antisocial personality disorders.
The study also found that all three groups of children had higher incidences of family hardship than kids who didn’t experience bullying at all.
So where do we look first in trying to fix the problem?
Researchers Ellyn M. Dickmann (the College of Education and Professional Studies at University of Wisconsin, Whitewater) and Sheila M. Fram (The School Design and Planning Network, Inc.) argue that the school’s physical environment could be at the root of bullying.
Bullies thrive in dark, isolated areas, say Dickmann and Fram. Some of their bully-proof suggestions include turning dark corners into bright areas with books, installing lockers that are waist-high (and impossible to stuff someone in) and increasing adult-presence in the hallways, courtyards or playgrounds.
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Paige Brettingen is a journalist in Los Angeles, where she is pursuing her masters at USC. When she's not on the lookout for the next story, her interests include running, walking with her dog, and attempting to be a better cook. Follow her @newsbypaige.