In a recent column for Yahoo! Shine, Barbara Greenberg summarizes a study by Douglas Gentile and Brad Bushman, published in the journal Psychology of Popular Media Culture, that identifies six “risk factors that predicted future aggression and bullying behavior” in kids:
1. A tendency toward hostility
2. low parental involvement
3. gender with boys being more likely to be physically aggressive
4. a history of physical victimization
5. a history of prior physical fights
6. media violence exposure.
Here’s how the study was conducted:
The study by Gentile and Bushman looked at 430 children ages 7-11 in grades 3-5 from 5 Minnesota schools. For this study, children and their teachers were surveyed twice in a year – usually six months apart. Physical aggression was measured using self-reports, peer nominations, and teacher reports of actual violence.
Any relevance to workplace bullying?
The question of identifying likely workplace aggressors comes up more than occasionally in discussions about preventing bullying at work.
However, most of the popular and academic literature examining aggressors at work focuses on actual behaviors rather than identifying risk factors. There definitely are research opportunities in this realm.
Furthermore, workplace bullying tends to be in the form of psychological rather than physical abuse, so practically speaking it’s less likely that there will be a documented record of prior risk-level behaviors. Even if such a record exists, it is improbable that it will be shared among stakeholders in a position to act preventively, given standard human resources practices and confidentiality/privacy issues concerning employee evaluations.
Equally important is whether employers would even want to be able to “profile” candidates for hiring and promotion based on their supposed propensity to engage in abusive mistreatment of co-workers. Various commercially marketed personality tests may help to identify certain counterproductive traits, but their reliability as pre-employment screening devices is highly questionable.
It’s a topic rife with complications, much different from school situations.
Although the full journal article is not freely available, go here for the posted abstract: