Teaching Teens That Bullies Can Change Reduces Aggression

Jim Liebelt | Senior Writer, Editor and Researcher for the HomeWord Center for Youth and Family at Azusa Pacific University | Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Teaching Teens That Bullies Can Change Reduces Aggression

Teenagers who believe people can’t change react more aggressively to peer conflicts than those who think people can change. And teaching them that people have the potential to change can reduce these aggressive reactions, according to a new psychology study from The University of Texas at Austin.

The study, published in the February 2013 issue of Child Development, has important implications for bullying interventions in public schools.

“When adolescents believe the world is full of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ people, with nobody in between, they are then quick to classify people as one or the other,” said David Yeager, assistant professor of developmental psychology at The University of Texas at Austin. “We found that teens in this ‘fixed’ mindset — even after a minor offense like getting bumped in the hall or being left out of a game of catch — relegated peers to the ‘bad person’ group, decided that they had offended on purpose and wanted aggressive revenge.”

The researchers developed and tested a brief intervention that taught the teens about the potential for change in people. The intervention reduced the respondents’ tendency to see the offense as having been done on purpose and reduced their desire for aggressive revenge even eight months after the students took part in the study.

Source: University of Texas at Austin