New Book Explores Bullying, Offers Strategies and Hope

Monday, December 3, 2012

A lucky few survive childhood and adolescence without dealing at some point with bullying. The problem is age-old, but more pervasive than ever with the rise of new technology. Whether children are the bully or the bullied, the repercussions can be great. Sally Kuykendall, Ph.D., associate professor and chair of health services at Saint Joseph’s University, has culminated a decade of research on the topic in a book aimed at exposing the causes and implications of bullying, as well as novel strategies to combat this behavior.

Appropriately tilted Bullying (ABC-CLIO), the book offers a unique perspective by presenting the topic as a health issue, and examining different dimensions of physical, emotional, intellectual, social, and spiritual health.

“Our society tends to focus on physical health,” says Kuykendall. “But all the dimensions of health are interrelated. Spiritual health, for instance, refers to our ability to appreciate the world around us and is directly related to our emotional well-being. The book advocates for finding health-enhancing activities for victims that can counterbalance the social and emotional damage caused by bullying.”

Kuykendall’s nursing background and prior research experience made her an ideal candidate to be the program evaluator of a Philadelphia Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) study on the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program and its implementation in area schools. Olweus began in Norway in the early 70s and is a multilevel, multicomponent school-based program designed to prevent or reduce bullying in elementary, middle and junior high schools. Kuykendall spent nine years observing children's behaviors at lunch and recess  and recognized common, recurring subtle behaviors.

“The book allowed me to share what I observed and explore different types of power,” Kuykendall says. “I consider why abusers feel entitled to hurt others and explore ways to handle abusers. Since writing the book, I have a better understanding of power and how to equalize power imbalances.”

Support from the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency, a Saint Joseph's University Summer Research Grant and another from the University’s Institute of Catholic Bioethics helped advance Kuykendall’s studies. When approached by her publisher, she already had a rough draft of the book.

“I would like to see some truth telling, some admission that the way things used to be is wrong,” Kuykendall says when asked what she most hopes the book will accomplish. “Adults have a responsibility to protect all students.  I would like the book to trigger a national movement of truth and reconciliation so that we can move forward in helping all children to succeed.”

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