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Derogatory behavior in educational institutions: Psychological review. April 19th as the “Day of Silence”

Behavior that degrades one's dignity is one of the primary and systemic human rights violations that exists, and it includes deprecation, labeling and bullying.

Deprecation is a negative and disrespectful treatment toward a person whose behavior, actions, speech or appearance is deemed unacceptable or disliked by society or by a specific group of people.

Labeling is a negative stigma attributed to the characteristics of a person, which forces one to have low self-esteem, and to feel oneself as a weak and imperfect individual.

People tend to avoid friendship with individuals who are negatively labeled, because they are afraid that they will also be labeled in a negative way. Therefore, people who are negatively labeled end up isolated and marginalized within society. Such people also end up inheriting a number of socio-psychological issues such as insecurity, inferiority complex, low self-esteem, stress, depression, and suicidal tendencies.

Bullying is the display of insulting behavior, the main purpose of which is to discredit and humiliate the person to whom such behavior is addressed. Bullying usually attempts to make the person who is being bullied the object of laughter and mocking in order to show how that person is dumb and does not deserve respect.

Most often behavior meant to degrade someone is divided into several types:

physical- hitting, pushing, pulling, stealing or destroying another's personal belongings

verbal provocation- name calling, degrading accusations directed at the "victim"

social- isolating "victim" from the group, gossiping, leaving "victim" in a humiliating situation

cyber-provocation- insults and threats sent through e-mail or on social networking sites

Who can become a victim of deprecation, labeling an bullying?

There is such a stereotype that within educational institutions only those people who have pronounced differences in comparison with the rest of society end up becoming victims of the above-mentioned abuses. Such things as ethnic origin, religious beliefs and social status can produce the appearance and behavior of difference in contrast with the accepted model of norms within society. Such differences are unusual in some children's eyes and become a reason for aggressive (in the name of protection or self-preservation) behavior until these children are able to adapt to those children they see as different. With this in mind, the work to end such behavior should concentrate on bullies. Bullies should develop a tolerance based mentality toward the victims of bullying until the "crisis stage" of bullying for both parties involved can be overcome.

Often derogatory behavior in schools is a much more widespread problem than the question of being afraid of what one doesn't know. Unfortunately children tend to be more open-minded than their parents and those older people around them who should be more aware. By investigating the sources of bullying in schools, psychologists have been able to prove, after asking children why they bully African American kids, for example, that they have heard how African Americans are spoken of in a deprecating way at home.

Many times it is in fact parents and teachers who become sources from which bullying arises when they subject students to discrimination. This phenomenon then becomes an excuse for children who start to bully the student that has become a "victim" in the same way that their teachers do.

In general derogatory behavior can be directed at anyone and no one is totally safe from becoming a "victim" of bullying. At the same time, it is more so the case that individuals who have certain characteristics that set them apart and area the minority in a set group tend to become "victims" of such derogatory behavior. Often such behavior is directed toward those individuals who tend to have characteristics that stand out and who form a minority in a formal or non-formal group.

Derogatory behavior is more dangerous in formal groups since in schools, which can also serve as examples of a formal groups, children cannot be introduced into or leave such groups as they wish. This same situation is also present in yards and streets of neighborhoods, which the produces the need to integrate and survive in such groups.

Differing characteristics can be considered any characteristics that are not repeated or seen within the given group. With that said, one characteristic that might be seen as one of difference in a certain group, can be seen as something that is usual in another group and therefore accepted as normal. Some characteristics that might be deemed as not normal or not accepted are the following:

- having a single parent

- being an orphan

- being a child with divorced parents

- being a refugee

- being a child in a socially insecure family

- sexual orientation

- being the child of a sex worker

- obesity

- having a mental or physical disability

- having problems with vision or hearing

- belonging to another ethnicity or race

- skin disease, pigmentation

Consequences of derogatory behavior for the "victim":

- anxiety

- the person may stay silent about the problem and internalize it in which case an internal conflict can develop

- stress

- the person can have difficulty with finding friends or a job

- having negative thoughts relating to the self and others

- inferiority complex

- social isolation

- depression

- suicidal thoughts

- suicide

Consequences of derogatory behavior for the aggressor:

- illusion of satisfaction

- aggression

- feeling of guilt, inferiority complex

- feeling proud, superiority complex

How can we overcome the phenomenon of derogatory behavior?

Besides goal oriented therapy, psychologists also propose a number of tactics which can be used by the person being bullied. First of all, it should be kept in mind that each individual has the right to be respected and treated fairly as well as to feel safe within any environment.

- The child can ask for help from adults he or she trusts. This is one solution. It's important to let children know that to ask for help from adults is not embarrasing.

- It's important to explain how the behavior of the "victim" can affect the issue, whether it can make the issue worse or make it better.

- To try to understand what the problem is by speaking to the "aggressor."

- One of the solutions can be to ignore the bullying that is happening, and to pretend that the behavior of the bully has absolutely not effect. Ignoring such derogatory behavior is often the strongest weapon against bullying.

- Laughter is also a good solution. Taking the provocation as a joke can also make it seem like the given behavior is not bothersome.

- To do things that cause one pleasure and joy.

Prepared by Elvira Melisetyan, a psychologist and adolescent girls' program coordinator at the Women's Resource Center of Armenia NGO.

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