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Friday, September 29, 2023

North Central College psychology researchers seek to reduce harmful effects of bullying


When Patricia Schacht, associate professor of psychology at North Central College in Naperville, offered a senior-level seminar called “Bullying,” all 20 spots quickly filled. So she opened a second section, which filled just as fast. An expert in child development and parental behaviors, Schacht is finding an insatiable demand for information on the topic of bullying and its prevention, her topic of scholarly research.

Michaela Vilim, a junior psychology from Naperville, assisted North Central College associate professor of psychology Patricia Schacht with research about bullying.

“It’s such a hot topic today,” she says. “Schools have formulated anti-bullying policies but they’re not working. But it needs to change, as we hear about kids committing suicide as a result of bullying.”

According to Schacht, there’s a word for that now: “bullycide.” And cyber bullies are just as damaging to their victims as those in the halls at school, she adds.

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Schacht is focusing her research and publishing on the victims of bullying and how they can be better supported by their parents and teachers, which hasn’t drawn as much interest as bullying behaviors. During the past two years, Schacht surveyed 500 area schoolchildren in grades second through fifth about their families and peer experiences.

Schacht will use the results to design a prevention program aimed at educating parents about how to help younger elementary children with coping skills they can use in middle school. She may consider developing a children’s book and other ways to help parents and teachers better understand how to support victims. “Ultimately the goal is to stop it before it starts. But if it’s happening, children need better ways to cope with it,” she says.

“Another important factor is a child or adult who supports them in some way,” Schacht says. “Negative outcomes of bullying drastically decline if the victim has at least one buddy—whether it’s an older child, a sibling or even a parent who understands what’s happening. If the child doesn’t feel alone, they’re more likely to problem-solve.”

Of the North Central students enrolled in her two campus seminars, about 75 percent identified themselves as “bystanders” who witnessed bullying but didn’t participate. “But just one person stepping forward can be so beneficial,” Schacht adds.

Assisting Schacht is psychology major Michaela Vilim, a junior from Naperville. “One of the reasons I’m so interested in this project is I’ve seen how bullying is affecting the boys I babysit and it is honestly very upsetting,” she says. “I am hoping to do more research of my own. As a student studying psychology and neuroscience, I am fascinated by the behaviors of people.”

In addition, Schacht worked on her research with 2012 alumna Rachel Garthe, who helped with data collection and who is now pursuing a doctorate in developmental psychology at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Schacht is one of nearly 50 faculty members who received grant funding from North Central College for conducting 2014 summer research, including laboratory work, writing and publishing, developing new courses and conducting seminars. Twenty-nine students received stipends to work with faculty on research projects this summer.

Visit northcentralcollege.edu/majors/psychology to learn more about North Central College’s undergraduate psychology program.

Photo courtesy North Central College

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North Central College
North Central Collegehttp://www.northcentralcollege.edu
Founded in 1861, North Central College is an independent, comprehensive college of the liberal arts and sciences that offers more than 55 undergraduate majors and graduate programming in six areas. Located in the Historic District of Naperville, Illinois—rated by Money magazine as among the nation’s “Best Places to Live”—North Central College is just 30 minutes from Chicago’s Loop. With more than 3,000 undergraduate and graduate students, North Central College is committed to academic excellence, a climate that emphasizes leadership, ethics, values and service, a curriculum that balances job-related knowledge with a liberal arts foundation and a caring environment with small classes. Visit northcentralcollege.edu to learn more.


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