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Effects of Bullying
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In the last section, we discussed helping students fight bullying as a group by using the Anti - Meanness Chart.
In this section... we will discuss four facets of the effects of bullying on students. These four facets are, short term effects on the victim, long term effects on the victim, short term effects on the bully, and long term effects on the bully.
♦ 1. Short Term Effects on the Victim
The first facet of the effects of bullying concerns the short term effects on the victim. As you are well aware, the short term effects on victims of bullying can be extremely severe, and may include suicidal thoughts and behavior. According to a study by Kidscape, up to 20% of the victims of bullying make at least one attempt to kill themselves. In her book on bullying, Kathleen Winkler describes one case in which a girl named Kirby was bullied and harassed by a group of popular girls. The girls would rip Kirby’s clothes off of her at school, rip her jewelry off her neck, and at one point threatened to break her legs. Kirby survived a suicide attempt in which she took pills, but three months later killed herself with a rifle.
♦ Eleven Common Effects on Victims
Although Kirby’s case is an extreme example, clearly it is important to look closely at the strong negative short-term effects bullying has on students. According to William Voors, it is important to review eleven of the most significant common effects.
These eleven common effects are:
1. Low self confidence. Students who are bullied often think they can do nothing about it. This can lead to feelings of inferiority, and of not being able to do much about problems in general.
3. Abnormal fear and worries. As you have observed, as a victim becomes afraid of a bully, she or he may generalize these emotions and become afraid of everything in general.
4. Sleep disorders.
5. Nervous habits.
6. Frequent crying.
7. Bed-wetting. Clearly, anxiety and tension can show up in physical symptoms.
8. Understandable physical symptoms such as nocturnal enuresis can obviously make a victim of bullying feel worse about her or himself.
9. Poor appetite or digestive problems.
10. School problems, such as being so preoccupied with worrying about a bully that the student can no longer study. I have found this is often expressed in failing grades, or a student who stops speaking in class.
Voors points out that anger and resentment against a bully can become so extreme that the victims themselves become aggressive, and take out their hurt feelings on others.
♦ 2. Long Term Effects on the Victim
A second facet of the effects of bullying is the long term effects on the victim. I have observed that because victims may be so afraid of being bullied again, they may form personality traits that keep them isolated from peers, further reducing potential sources of social support. According to Dr. Dan Olweus, some normalization occurs when bullied children reach adulthood.
However, these former victims are still at risk for depression and a negative self-concept. Additional research has indicated that adults who were victims of bullying in childhood report higher levels of loneliness than non-victims, indicating that social withdrawal seen in bullying victims may continue in later life.
♦ 3. Short Term Effects on the Bully
In addition to the short term and long term effects on a victim of bullying, a third facet concerns the short term effects of bullying on the bully. Recent research has shown that being a bully is not good for a student any more than being a victim is. For example, bullies often perceive themselves as popular because they often get their own way; they do not understand what other students actually think of them.
According to Dr. Olweus’ research, bullies are of average popularity until sixth grade, after which their popularity declines. Researcher Dr. Melissa DeRosier explains that since bullies are a threat to others, they are not likely to learn how other students feel about them, and thus do not learn the impact of their own behavior on others.
♦ 4. Long Term Effects on Bullies
A fourth facet concerns the long term effects of bullying on bullies. Clearly, many bullies grow out of the behavior and become successful adults. However, those who do not ‘outgrow’ the behavior may find themselves disliked and dissatisfied. Dr. Olweus found that up to 60% of boys identified as bullies in grades 6 through 9 have at least one court conviction by the age of 24. Additionally, research has found that aggression leads increasingly to rejection by peers, parents, and the school system.
As a result of rejection by the school system, half of bullies may not be in their age-appropriate grade by the end of elementary school. Rejection by peers may lead to social isolation, which can lead to similar problems as those experienced by victims. As you have observed, bullies are equally as likely to experience depression as the victims of bullying.
♦ Behavioral Changes Checklist
I find that parents frequently have concerns about whether or not they would be able to identify signs that their student is being bullied at school. I use the Behavioral Changes checklist with parents to help them focus on warning signs that their child may be being victimized. As I list the behaviors from the checklist, you might compare the signs on this checklist to the one you are currently using with your clients.
1. The student shows symptoms of stress such as nail-biting, sleep disturbances, stuttering, bedwetting, or emotional extremes.
2. The student makes excuses for not wanting to go to school, such as headaches or stomachaches. Or, the student starts skipping school or cutting certain classes.
3. The student has a decline in grades or quality of schoolwork.
4. The student stops talking about friends or socializing.
5. The student changes her or his routine; for example, insisting you drive her or him to school rather than taking the bus.
6. The student doesn’t know what happened to his science textbook, his lunch money, or why his backpack is muddy or ripped.
7. More than once, the student has made light of a bruise or other injury.
8. The student suddenly seems preoccupied with weight, height, build, or another aspect of her or his appearance.
9. The student asks permission to carry an item such as a knife or mace.
10. The student talks about moving, changing schools, or running away.
♦ Talking About Bullying
For parents who express that this checklist rings an alarm bell, I suggest that the parent set a time to talk to the student about bullying. I suggest that the parent might start the conversation with an example of bullying, perhaps from personal experience. Next, I suggest the parent use a conversation opener statement to invite the student to share his or her thoughts or experiences.
A conversation opener statement I have found useful is:
"Do you ever see kids getting picked on or beaten up at school?" The parent can then follow up this question by asking, "Tell me more about the kinds of situations you see." "Is there a lot of name-calling?" or "if something like that happened to you, would you feel comfortable telling me about it?" I recommend that parents then listen without interrupting as the child speaks.
Think of a parent you are treating who has concerns about his or her child being bullied. Would providing him or her with the Behavioral Changes checklist technique be helpful?
In this section... we have discussed four facets of the effects of bullying on students. These four facets are, short term effects on the victim, long term effects on the victim, short term effects on the bully, and long term effects on the bully.
In the next section... we will discuss helping parents understand the nature of the bullying a student is experiencing by discussing five types of bullying victims. These five types of victims are the one dimensional victim, the physically challenged victim, the passive loner victim, the aggressive loner victim, and the accidental victim.
- Egan, L. A., & Todorov, N. (January 2009). Forgiveness as a Coping Strategy to allow School Students to Deal with the Effects of Being Bullied: Theoretical and Empirical Discussion. Journal of Social & Clinical Psychology, 28(2), 198.
- Shetgiri, R., Lin, H., Avila, R. M., & Flores, G. (Dec 2012). Parental Characteristics Associated With Bullying Perpetration in US Children Aged 10 to 17 Years. American Journal of Public Health, 102(12), 2280-2286.
Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Juvonen, J., Schacter, H. L., Sainio, M., & Salmivalli, C. (2016). Can a school-wide bullying prevention program improve the plight of victims? Evidence for risk × intervention effects. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 84(4), 334–344.
Low, S., & Van Ryzin, M. (2014). The moderating effects of school climate on bullying prevention efforts. School Psychology Quarterly, 29(3), 306–319.
Sijtsema, J. J., Rambaran, J. A., Caravita, S. C. S., & Gini, G. (2014). Friendship selection and influence in bullying and defending: Effects of moral disengagement. Developmental Psychology, 50(8), 2093–2104.
What are the common short-term effects of bullying on the victim? To select and enter your answer go to .