Bullying: A Proposition for Psychological Study Inspired by Accounts of Restraining Order Abuse and Fraud

Posted on March 3, 2014


I’ve just corresponded with another victim of tag-teaming involving false allegations made to authorities and the court that were augmented and exacerbated by false rumors and group threats made on Facebook, hyped protestations of fear and danger circulated among friends and family, etc.

This moved me to investigate whether there’s a label for this kind of misconduct and if group-bullying is a recognized social phenomenon.

What I discovered was that group-bullying certainly is a recognized social phenomenon among kids, and it’s one that’s given rise to the coinage cyberbullying and been credited with inspiring teen suicide. The clinical term for this conduct is relational aggression, and one of the forms it takes is defamation by spreading rumors and gossiping about its victim, or publicly humiliating him or her. We’re talking about the vulgar mischief most of us thought we’d escaped when we graduated from high school.

The restraining order process is paternal and infantilizing, and its use mirrors children’s running to adults to adjudicate a perceived or claimed injustice (which is among the reasons why such processes are objected to and derogated as demeaning to women by equity feminists like Camille Paglia). Among the consequences of the availability of restraining orders is the promotion of developmental reversion, a regression into adolescent or even pre-adolescent modes of behavior.

Explications of group-bullying don’t identify one gender or the other as the likelier abuser, though relational aggression is said (by Wikipedia) to have been primarily observed and studied among girls.

Bullies, despite being quite morally competent, tend to engage in morally wrong behaviors because of several reasons, including a lack of moral compassion. In general, bullies seem to engage in a kind of cold cognition and have a good theory of mind. They also have an average to good social intelligence. These skills seem to be especially important in order to use relational aggression in an instrumental manner—for achieving specific social goals. As mentioned previously, male and female bullies usually score differently on sociometric measures. Male bullies often fall in the socially rejected category while female bullies tend to fall in the controversial category. They can be popular yet not liked.

According to the group-bullying paradigm, you have the bully, or ringleader, and a number of orbital “bully-reinforcers and assistants,” besides peripheral outsiders who are less committal but may nevertheless participate.

Bully-reinforcers and assistants do not normally initiate aggressive actions themselves, but they support, reinforce, and/or assist the bully. They often have rather large friendship networks when compared to outsiders, victims, and their defenders. These individuals are similar to bullies in regards of their personal characteristics. Female bully-reinforcers and assistants usually score low on social acceptance and high on rejection by their peers while male bully assistants have average scores on both, and bully-reinforcers are often quite popular among their peers. The characteristic that is common among all these individuals across both genders is low level of empathy.

(I’ve been subject to this misconduct, including by two women who claim their own brothers were victims of false allegations by other women. Interestingly, this didn’t deter these “bully-reinforcers” from participating in the identical misconduct. I’m curious now to learn whether it’s the case that morally diminished or vacuous people tend to gravitate toward one another.)

It’s noteworthy, of course, that upon consideration of the personality-disordered, sociopaths, and bullies (in this context vis-à-vis restraining order abuse), the underlying character qualification that’s repeatedly echoed is “low level of empathy” (and clearly there may be overlap between these types, that is, an offender may be all three in one—in fact, I just learned a single person can have multiple personality disorders). It’s disturbingly noteworthy, what’s more, that though the quoted typologies in this discussion are meant to apply to children, adults will have no difficulty in recognizing other “adults” to whom they’re equally applicable. Deplorably, the “social goals” that motivate bullying by adults may be little different from those that inspire teens: revenge, self-exaltation or -advancement by alienation of another, dominance, attention-seeking, and/or sport.

The restraining order merits special inquiry by psychological researchers, because it (1) allows a bully or false accuser to make allegations outside of normal channels to judges who are, effectively, parental strangers (nullifying any potential for in-group contradiction or negative social fallout, including in work settings); (2) authorizes the bully or false accuser (and his or her minions) to then spread false rumors within normal channels that have received external and official validation; and (3) enables the bully or false accuser to many times more effectively arouse attention and third-party (outsider) participation, because his or her allegations have been officially (parentally) legitimated.

Because of its innate procedural prejudices and low evidentiary threshold (in cases, zero), the restraining order as a medium of lying is uniquely disinhibiting even while promising exorbitant rewards to a bully or false accuser. Incidence rates of false allegations derived from other contexts are therefore wrongfully expected to cross-apply to this medium and are extravagantly low by contrast.

That the recognized by-products of adolescent bullying, furthermore, including depression, difficulties in academic performance, and undermined feelings of competence may likewise manifest in adult victims of bullying but with the additional consequences of loss of employment or employability and familial disruption or dissolution makes the need for critical scrutiny of adult bullying facilitated and authorized by restraining order abuse that much more urgent.

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