Students Involved in Bullying Have More Behavioral Problems
> 7/7/2006 10:35:35 AM

The ageless phenomenon of bullying, or threatening and teasing a peerwith verbal and physical provocations, is an elemental aspect of theschool experience for millions of American students. Repeated studiesconclude that the victims of these actions are much more likely todisplay significant behavioral problems, drop out of school, anddevelop criminal habits throughout their later lives.

A new study of five to seven-year oldsfrom King's College in London is only the latest to confirm that theendurance of excessive bullying, particularly in lower school, canserve as a pivotal, negative point in the development of children whowill later struggle with mental health issues. Victims are more likeyto be withdrawn and depressive, commonly reporting anxiety problems.More significant is the finding that perpetrators were also much morelikely to be unhappy in school and face problems with internalization.

A long-held belief thatbullying can result from a lack of parental supervision seems to befurther confirmed by this study. Many bullies simply suffer from lowself-esteem and a lack of positive reinforcement at home, using theiraggression in an attempt to balance the effects of a generally negativeself-image.

Additionally, children who observe parents and siblings exhibiting bullying behavior, or who are themselves victims, are likely to develop bullying behaviors. When children receive negative messages or physical punishment at home, they tend to develop negative self concepts and expectations, and may therefore attack before they are attacked—bullying others gives them a sense of power and importance.

Their chosen victims are often easy targets, or kids whose dispositionsleave them more susceptible to intimidation, signaling to others thatthey are:

...insecure, primarily passive andwill not retaliate if they are attacked. Consequently, bullies oftentarget children who complain, appear physically or emotionally weak andseek attention from peers. Studies show that victims have a higherprevalence of overprotective parents or school personnel; as a result,they often fail to develop their own coping skills.

Bullying is most prevalent in middle school, when the awkwardness ofadolescence leaves many vulnerable to emotional and social trauma.Luckily, the number of children involved in either perpetrating orenduring bullying is relatively small - from 15% to 30% of the samplegroup. Most students do not experience significant harassment inschool, but for those who do, the experience can be crippling. Sinceschools are often frustratingly slow to respond to reports of bullying,the bulk of responsibility for such behavior rests with the parents ofthe involved parties. Parents concerned about the social behavior oftheir children may want to closely monitor their activites and ask themselves relevant questions,ready for the possibility that their children exhibit some of theanti-social tendencies associated with bullying. Most would prefer allstudents to have positive school experiences, learning important socialskills and preparing for the challenges of the adult world. Butbullying is, unfortunately, inseparable from the education process, andmany involved on all sides of the issue could do more to examine andactively confront it.

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