The Effects of Bullying

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Bullying is defined as a repeated aggression in which one or more persons intend to harm or disturb another person physically, verbally or psychologically. It can take many forms such as physical aggression, verbal aggression or social isolation. Bullying is a significant social problem and has likely occurred throughout human history. Research has shown that bullying not only affects a child’s learning but it also has detrimental consequences on a child’s future development. Effects on victims include low self-esteem, depression, school failure and anxiety. Implications for aggressors include delinquent behaviour and low levels of happiness. It will be argued that bullying is not normal and that children are not able to cope with it.

Bullying is acknowledged to be a common and widespread form of violence in the school context in many countries (Smith et al., 1999). Olweus (1993) defines bullying as a subtype of aggressive behaviour in which an aggressor intentionally and repeatedly over time harms a weaker victim either physically and/or psychologically. Effects on victims of bullying include low self-esteem, depression, school failure and in extreme cases, suicide. Bullying is a significant social problem in many countries and presents a serious threat to a healthy development during the school career. Research shows that victims of bullying tend to be withdrawn, cautious and insecure. They also exhibit poor psychosocial functioning. Although victims respond in various ways to bullying, avoidance behaviours are the most common (Batsche & Knoff, 1994; Kumpulainen et al., 1998). On the other hand, research suggests that children identified as bullies demonstrate poorer school adjustment, both in terms of achievement and well-being and also perceive less social support from teachers. This implies that bullying has detrimental consequences for both bullies and victims. This essay is set out to investigate the factors relating to bullying and the effects it has on child development. It will be argued that bullying is not normal and that children are not able to cope with it. Bullying may be common, but it is not normal. Many parents and children today underestimate and downplay the significance of bullying in society today. Parents assume that their children are able to cope with bullying, with some parents even thinking that being bullied to a certain extent might “toughen up” their child. However, as research has shown, bullying has many life-long destructive consequences on these victims of bullying. Not only does bullying cause a child to become withdrawn and cautious, these experiences can have long-term impacts through adolescence and into adulthood. This then hinders their natural ability to make friends and to socialize. Children identified as victims also tend to exhibit poor psychosocial functions. Bullying should not be accepted as a process that children have to go through. Bullying is a destructive relationship problem. Victimized children carry the hurt and fear from bullying forward into adult relationships. As a result, these children tend to withdraw from peer interactions and are at risk of becoming socially anxious. Craig & Pepler (2007) noted that once peers become aware that a child is being victimized, they hesitate to intervene for fear of being victimized themselves. They distance themselves from the victimized child and may even join in the bullying to become more accepted by those in power. If children are victimized over a prolonged period of time, they lack the normative social interactions that are critical to their healthy development and emerging relationship capacity. These children also experience significant mental health problems. They tend to be more withdrawn, cautious and insecure. Schwartz (2000) also noted that these children were likely to be less prosocial than uninvolved children were for fear of “not being able to fit in” (Hoover, Oliver & Hazler,...
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