Emily Bazelon on 'Sticks and Stones,' the bullying epidemic

'Sticks and Stones' by Emily Bazelon
Book cover courtesy of publisher

Emily Bazelon's new book, "Sticks and Stones," takes a look at America's epidemic of school bullying.

As she confronts the problem, she brings up the new and more complex forms of bullying children are experiencing.

From Bazelon's interview with Slate:

One piece of research in particular helped me understand why kids bully--how that can be a rational, if unfortunate, choice. Robert Faris at U.C. Davis mapped social networks in a few different high schools, and he showed that kids behaving aggressively--not physically, but socially--use gossip, exclusion, and attacks on other kids' reputations to help themselves move up the social ladder. It turned out that for most kids, it didn't work, in terms of increasing status, to attack someone much weaker. But if you picked on someone near you in the social hierarchy who was a possible rival, that often had a social benefit.

A major problem in tackling bullying is the overuse of the term, she wrote in The New York Times:

The word is being overused -- expanding, accordionlike, to encompass both appalling violence or harassment and a few mean words. State laws don't help: a wave of recent anti-bullying legislation includes at least 10 different definitions, sowing confusion among parents and educators.

All the misdiagnosis of bullying is making the real but limited problem seem impossible to solve. If every act of aggression counts as bullying, how can we stop it? Down this road lies the old assumption that bullying is a rite of childhood passage. But that's wrong.


Minnesota: Weak on bullying. A six-month investigation of bullying policies across the state found a patchwork of policies and that the state's policy is one of the shortest in the nation. (MPR)

11 facts about bullying. More than 3.2 million students are bullied every year. (DoSomething.org)

Defining bullying down. Bazelon explains why the term bullying is overused and hurts the effort to stop the serious problem. (New York Times)

Psychological effects of bullying can last years. A study out of Duke University showed that students who bullied or were bullied are more at risk for depression, anxiety and panic disorder years later. (Reuters)

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