The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry has published a study out of London that finds a child's lack of understanding of other people's behaviors can result in a higher probability of being a bully, victim or bully-victim.
"A Prospective Longitudinal Study of Children’s Theory of Mind (ToM) and Adolescent Involvement in Bullying" concluded that identifying and supporting children with poor ToM early in life could help reduce their vulnerability for involvement in bullying and thus limit its adverse effects on mental health.
The researchers from King's College of London studied more than 2,200 families with children who were 5, 7, 10 and 12 years old to gauge their ToM, or the capacity of humans to understand the mental states of emotion, desire, hope and intentions. Theory of mind affects the way children imagine the feelings or thoughts of others. Poor ToM is thought to be at the root of most difficulties that people with Asperger's or other autism spectrum disorders experience.
The researchers used eight standardized tasks of the children when they were 5 years old to to assess their ToM. Then, the study identified which of those children were involved in bullying as victims, bullies or bully-victim at age 12. The researchers found a direct correlation between involvement in bullying activities during early adolescence and having poor ToM in childhood.
The study could have some interesting legs for student transporters when attempting (and training how) to understand child behavior on the school bus as well as when reporting and intervening in bullying and harassment incidents.