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Waddell, M. (2002). The Psychodynamics of Bullying. Free Associations, 9(2):189-210.

(2002). Free Associations, 9(2):189-210

The Psychodynamics of Bullying

Margot Waddell

If you leave a lot of boys to their own devices, in a brutal age, themselves brutalized by rude surroundings and rendered aggressive by violent discipline and often harsh childhoods, you will get bullying. You get it sufficiently without all these. The bullying in these centuries was inevitable, continuous and fiendish. (Gathome-Hardy, 1977, p. 60)

Jonathan Gathome-Hardy is writing about a particular aspect of the public school phenomenon. ‘There are horrific accounts’, he says, from all centuries, but it is clear the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries marked a climax. Boys killed each other (p. 60)

In quoting Jonathan Gathome-Hardy I want to establish from the first that the phenomenon of bullying is the product of an extremely complex picture of external and internal events. Albeit in an historical, class, and gender specific context, the issues raised here are central to the ones explored in this paper. Axiomatically the bully must have an object, or person to bully. We are talking, in other words, of a dynamic relationship in which, aggravated or fuelled by external circumstances, aspects of the personality are played out — sometimes with tragic consequences.

Bullying among children cannot be separated from wider social, cultural, and political considerations.

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