Bullying is an important issue in schools today. Not only is the issue more common today than it was 50 years ago, much more is understood about the possible psychological ramifications of the issue. Studies show that bullying can occur in any demographic and is not confined to any one race, religion, age, culture, body type, or socioeconomic status. Research also demonstrates the severity of psychological damage bullying can inflict upon victims, witnesses, and perpetrators, including low self-esteem, thoughts of suicide, depression, fear, and anxiety. Most studies on bullying have been completed using self-report surveys or questionnaires given to students, teachers, and parents. Information for these studies has been collected from schools in a wide range of socioeconomic levels and from individuals representing many different races, religions, and cultures.
While the research shows a higher chance of being bullied for those who are considered “abnormal” for their peer group, this does not mean that only certain types of students experience bullying. It does indicate that individuals whose age, academic performance, body mass index, or depressive symptoms stand out from the crowd are more likely to be singled out for bullying (Bauman, 2008). For example, a student who is heavier than their classmates may be taunted for being “fat” or an individual who is older or younger than their classmates may be taunted for being “stupid” or a “nerd”. The probability of being bullied does not, however, always have to do with the individual’s personal characteristics. Instances of bullying have been found to be higher in schools where there is a negative climate, a higher tolerance for bullying, or a combination of the two. Those instances become even more frequent when those factors are combined with a student who already has low self-esteem (Gendron, et al., 2011).
The psychological effects of bullying are severe and varied. The effects of being a victim of bullying behavior include, but are not limited to, feelings of anxiety, vulnerability, and fear. They can also lead to the victim developing symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder and low self-esteem that can last well into adulthood (Carlisle & Rofes, 2007). Studies also show that victims of bullying behavior may begin to display external deviant behaviors such as aggressiveness toward others, later criminal behavior, poor school attendance and, in some cases, the victim perpetrating bullying behavior themselves (Hay, et al., 2010). Perhaps the most severe psychological effects of bullying can be seen in the thoughts of suicide or suicide attempts seen by some victims (Rivers & Noret, 2010).
Surprisingly, the negative psychological effects of bullying are not limited to victims. Witnesses and perpetrators of bullying behavior also experience negative psychological effects. Witnesses and perpetrators have been shown to experience poor mental health, low self-image, thoughts of suicide, and suicide attempts. The severity of those effects are often magnified when students fall into multiple categories (Rivers & Noret, 2010). For example, a student who has been bullied and also bullies others is at an increased risk of having low self-image or thoughts of suicide than a student who has only been victimized or has only bullied others.
Resiliency, in a psychological context, refers to an individual’s ability to cope with stress or adverse experiences. An individual with high levels of resiliency is better able to cope with stress while an individual with low levels of resiliency is more likely to be adversely effected. Studies have shown that individuals with high levels of resiliency tend to suffer less severe psychological effects of bullying (Bowes, et al., 2010). High levels of social support can also mediate the adverse effects of bullying, particularly when that support comes from family. According to one research study, high levels of family support combined with high levels of support from friends has the most significant impact on mediating the effects of bullying while moderate levels of family support combined with high levels of support from friends has a slightly lower, but still significant impact (Bowes, et al., 2010).
The results of the available literature makes several things clear. No student is immune to bullying regardless of their popularity, race, religion, culture, or role in bullying behaviors. Additionally, the psychological effects of bullying are more severe and wide-reaching than what many have believed in the past decades. However, not every victim, witness, or perpetrator will suffer the same severity of psychological effects depending on their personal level of resiliency and the levels of social support available to them. It is also clear that more research needs to be done into how bullying can be prevented in the future. If it can be stopped before it occurs, parents, teachers, and students can concentrate more on learning and growing as opposed to how to repair damage that has been caused by bullying.
Jaclyn TateArgosy University
Bullying is an important issue in schools today. Not only isthe issue more common today than it was 50 years ago,much more is understood about the possible psychologicalramifications of the issue. Studies show that bullying canoccur in any demographic and is not confined to any onerace, religion, age, culture, body type, or socioeconomicstatus. Research also demonstrates the severity ofpsychological damage bullying can inflict upon victims,witnesses, and perpetrators, including low self-esteem,thoughts of suicide, depression, fear, and anxiety. Moststudies on bullying have been completed using self-reportsurveys or questionnaires given to students, teachers, andparents. Information for these studies has been collectedfrom schools in a wide range of socioeconomic levels andfrom individuals representing many different races,religions, and cultures.
Research has shown that, while every student has achance of being bullied, students whose body mass index,academic performance, age, and depressive symptoms areconsidered out of the norm for their peer group are morelikely to be victimized (Bauman, 2008). Self-esteem,climate of the school, and approving beliefs of the societyare also contributing factors to higher frequencies ofbullying (Gendron, et al., 2011).
• Anxiety• Feelings of Vulnerability• Fear• Symptoms of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder• Low self-esteem• Aggressiveness• Criminal Behavior• Poor School Attendance• Thoughts of suicide
• Effects are not limited to victims• Psychological effects of perpetrating or witnessing bullying behavior include: • Poor mental health • Low self-image • Thoughts of suicide • Suicide attempts• Effects are magnified when student s fall into multiple categories
Psychological resiliency, referring to the individual’s abilityto successfully cope with stress or adverse experiences, isa significant mediating factor in mediating the negativeeffects of bullying. Social support, as well, has been shownto have a great impact on mediating the negative effects.Studies researching social support examined the effects ofsupport from family, the effects of support from friends, andthe combination of the two (Bowes, et al., 2010).
• No student is immune to the effects of bullying• Psychological effects of bullying are more severe and wide-reaching than previously believed• Resiliency and high levels of support are key factors in mediating adverse effects of bullying• More research needs to be done into preventing bullying from occurring
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• Rothon, C., Head, J., Klineburg, E., & Stansfield, S. (June 2011). Can Social Support Protect Bullied Adolescents From Adverse Outcomes? A Prospective Study on the Effects of Bullying on the Educational Achievement and Mental Health of Adolescents at Secondary Schools in East London. Journal of Adolescence, 34(3), 579-588. Retrieved September 6, 2011 from http://www.sciencedirect.com.libproxy.edmc.edu/ science/article/pii/S0140197110000898•