Friday, September 13, 2013

Bullying Basics

It’s a problem that has become an epidemic, cropping up in a variety of forms. Close to 30% of students, ages 12-18, were bullied during the 2008-2009 school year, according to In addition to the potential damage this abusive behavior can do to a young person, a recent study proves there are long-term effects, as well.  But, through education, awareness and intervention, it’s possible to identify and stop bullying.

No bullying drawing

Bullying Facts:

  • Boys are more likely to engage in bullying than girls.
  • Some groups might be at higher risk of being bullied—homosexuals, those with disabilities or individuals who are socially isolated, for example.
  • The behavior isn’t just limited to students. In a school setting, bus aides, lunchroom workers and other school workers can be at risk.
  • Workplace bullying can affect adults.

Bullying is a complex issue with multiple factors, including family, peers, community and school. Often the victims of abusive behavior themselves, bullies may engage in these actions based on issues in their own lives—parental divorce, poor self esteem or difficulty in school. Without awareness and intervention, the cycle of bullying is likely to continue.

Effects of Bullying:

  • Health
  • School performance and attendance
  • Relationships with family and friends
  • Involvement in activities
  • Can lead to depression, suicidal thoughts and violence in both bullies and their victims

But, the negative effects of this destructive behavior don’t end there. In a recent study by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) conducted by William Copeland, Ph.D., findings support the idea that bullying has long-lasting effects in an individual’s life. In fact, bullies and victims alike are at risk for serious psychiatric problems, such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Substance abuse
  • Suicide

The study concludes that unlike some traumas experienced early in life, the effects of bullying don’t appear to dissipate over time.  In addition, according to, childhood bullies or victims are more likely to partake in bullying behavior as adults.

Causes of Bullying:

  • Need to dominate others or feel superior
  • Lack of impulse control
  • Difficulty managing anger, anxiety and jealousy
  • Trouble tolerating others, especially those viewed as “different”

Types of Bullying:

  1. Physical—pushing, shoving
  2. Verbal—making fun of, taunting
  3. Emotional—spreading rumors, excluding from groups
  4. Cyber—bullying through social media sites such as Facebook or texting

Cyberbullying has become the most prevalent form of bullying because it allows “hiding,” anonymity for the bully.

Girl being bullied at school

Signs of a Bully:

  • Gets into physical/verbal fights
  • Has friends who bully others
  • Demonstrates increasingly aggressive behavior
  • Given detention frequently

Signs of a Victim of Bullying:

  • Has unexplained injuries
  • Suffers from frequent illness, such as headaches and stomach aches
  • Experiences difficulty in sleeping or nightmares
  • Grades start declining; doesn’t want to attend school
  • Changes in eating habits

To help stop this cycle of destructive behavior, awareness and intervention are crucial. Researchers continue to determine the best way to handle bullying; to date, the following guidelines are suggested.

How to Stop Bullying:

  • Be aware and informed.  Know the signs of bullying and don’t ignore them.
  • Speak to your children about bullying. Know what’s happening in school and with friends.
  • Know how to intervene if you witness bullying:
    • Keep calm
    • Teach kids to get adult help
    • Separate those involved
    • Get medical help or police assistance if necessary

For additional information on bullying, visit or

Kathy Rembisz 
Contributing Writer

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