Conference on bullying looks at different facets of abuse

Canada’s leading experts in bullying are gathering in Toronto today to share the latest knowledge, tools and strategies to address bullying issues from infancy through to adulthood.

The fourth annual conference, Life Without Bullying, is being held at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, and features workshops on a variety of topics, including workplace harassment, internet bullying and elder abuse.

The conference is hosted by PREVNet (Promoting Relationships & Eliminating Violence Network) co-directors Debra Pepler (right), a distinguished research professor of psychology at York, and Wendy Craig, a psychology professor at Queen’s University. The pair have worked together for more than 20 years addressing issues of bullying and aggression.

“There are myths that bullying is just a childhood problem and that children are best left to solve problems themselves,” says Craig. “But we know that where there’s an imbalance of power, adults need to support children, stop the interaction and, more importantly, provide the child being victimized and the child who is being aggressive with skills to use the next time they are faced with a situation.”

These coping skills are also essential to healthy adult interactions, says Pepler. “People develop a pattern of interacting where they feel entitled and able to control others through aggression. These patterns often persist for adults and we try to demonstrate that there are other kinds of skills that people can use to be successful in their interactions.”

Highlights of the conference workshops include:

Workplace Harassment: Workplace Bullying and Organizational Outcomes: Towards an Integrative Model with Professor Parbudyal Singh and PhD student Al-Karim Samnani of York University. Studies on workplace bullying have grown significantly over the past two decades, focusing mainly on individual level outcomes such as stress, apprehension, mental health, commitment and motivation. Research presented at this workshop will draw from other disciplines such as human resources management and industrial relations to explore outcomes at the organizational level.

Electronic/New Media: Promoting Internet Safety with Craig. The dark side of Internet socializing is on the increase among Canadian youth: cyberbullying is up 20 per cent from four years ago. This workshop will address the benefits and the challenges for youth, and adults responsible for youth, in using the Internet. Specific strategies addressing education and training, assessment and evaluation, and prevention and intervention will be reviewed.

Elder Abuse: Bullying at its Worst: Identification and Prevention with Professor Sandi Hirst of the University of Calgary. Hirst will lead a discussion of key practical strategies to detect and prevent the occurrence of elder abuse. As older adults become more physically frail, they are less able to stand up to bullying. They may not see or hear as well or think as clearly as they used to, which may mean that they are taken advantage of. Physical or cognitive disorders may make them irksome companions for those who live with them.

Infancy and Early Childhood: Interactional Guidance: Enhancing Parent-Child Interactions Through Videotaping with Susan Mendolia and Karen Narraway of the Toronto Public Health Healthy Families Program. Enhancing parent-child interaction through the use of videotaping is an intervention used by Toronto Public Health nurses within the Healthy Babies Healthy Children Program. Research has demonstrated that parental sensitivity is one of the most important predictors of the quality of parent-child attachment. Videotaping parent-child interactions, reviewing and discussing the videotaped interaction with the parent, and guided discussions with the Public Health nurse, enables the parent to observe and reflect upon how they respond to their child. (Videotapes shown in the workshop may not be taped or rebroadcast.)

Marginalized and GLBTQ Youth: Youth Speak Up for Safer Schools: Findings of the First National Climate Survey on Homophobia in Canadian Schools with Professor Catherine Taylor of the University of Winnipeg and Professor Tracey Peter and social work student Sarah Paquin of the University of Manitoba. This workshop presents the results of a national survey of Canadian high school students undertaken to identify the forms and extent of their experiences of homophobic incidents at school, and measures being taken by schools to combat this common form of bullying. The workshop concludes with recommendations for safe school policy development at the ministerial, district and school levels.

Infancy and Early Childhood: Fostering Healthy Interaction Patterns and Navigating the Challenging Social World: Lessons from Research on Early Development with Professor Dale Stack and PhD student Julie Martin of Concordia University. Research demonstrates the vital role parents play in fostering the myriad of skills and abilities infants and preschoolers develop that lay the foundation for adaptive interaction patterns later in life. Drawing from a unique longitudinal study on aggression and social withdrawal in girls and boys across generations, the researchers will highlight how adaptive and maladaptive patterns develop from infancy to middle childhood and may be transferred from parent to child.

For a complete list of workshops, see the conference program.

PREVNet shares up-to-date scientific knowledge and research expertise, builds awareness of bullying and aggression problems, plots strategies, informs public policy-making and shifts attitudes related to bullying.

The network brings together 62 university researchers and 60 graduate students from 26 Canadian universities and 49 national non-governmental organizations.