Bullying is a form of aggression and violence that is perpetrated upon the victim. It involves power and fear, and it also involves repetition — or the fear of repetition. Bullying might be divided into three categories: verbal, social, and physical. Learn about how to move beyond Bullying and Abuse.
There are different variations of the bullying dynamic. Bullies who bully others, but are not often targets of bullying. Victims who are bullied, but who don’t inflict bullying behavior upon others. And the last group: children who perpetrate bullying behaviors and are bullied by others. The terms used to describe this phenomenon might be called “bully-victims” and “aggressive-victims”.
That’s where toughness comes into play.
Toughness is not being a bully.
It’s having backbone.
– Robert Kiyosaki
The Legacy of Abuse
Bullying and abuse are a cycle. Children who have been abused may go on to perpetuate that abuse upon others, and children who have been bullied may at times imitate that behavior.
“The child abuse continuum shows that children who have been abused can go on to exhibit bullying behaviors, though it’s important to understand that not all abused children become bullies, and that not all bullies come from abusive homes”. Bullies have often experienced abuse or other difficulties at home, and modeled behaviors from adults around them; thus they may be both victims and perpetrators. “Often, especially in middle and high school, those who were bullied at a young age grow up to become bullies themselves.”
Sticks and Stones
While the old adage that “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me,” was used in the past to comfort and console victims of bullying, telling them to buck up, and society once looked upon bullying as a sort of passage of childhood, we now know that abuse leaves lasting scars.
The Mental and Emotional Toll of Violence
Bullying leaves emotional and physical scars upon the victim. A research team at Duke University Medical Center found that victims of bullying have a higher rate of agoraphobia, generalized anxiety disorder, and panic disorder. Those who were both bullies and victims are more likely to have: depression, panic disorder, agoraphobia and suicidal thoughts or actions.
And the emotional trauma can be long-lasting. A study reported in JAMA Psychiatry demonstrated that Bully victims as adults had a greater risk for anxiety disorders. Bully-victims had greater risk of depression and panic disorder. Men in this group still had a much greater risk of suicide; for women, the greater risk was agoraphobia. While those who were bullies were at greater risk for antisocial personality disorder .
The report goes on to conclude that the effects of being bullied are direct, “and long-lasting, with the worst effects for those who are both victims and bullies.”
Abuse and the Bully
“When you really take a close look at bullying, it’s happening with kids who feel the need to be aggressive after being treated in an aggressive manner themselves,” says Paul Quinlan, D.O., director of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry Inpatient Services at the U-M Health System. “They’re the kids who may be suffering from abuse or from just not having their needs met at school or at home” (“Why Do Some Kids Become Bullies?” University of Michigan Health Systems, January 7, 2002).
After perpetrating bullying acts, bullies often continue on to other anti-social behavior. “Bullies who have been identified by age 8 are six times more likely than others to be convicted of a crime by the time they reach the age of 24. They are five times more likely to end up with serious criminal records by age 30” (National Resource Centre for Safe Schools, 19998) .
Bullying and Abuse
Bullying and Abuse Leave Physical Damage
Our minds, bodies, and spirits are connected. If this sounds a bit New Agey, consider this: children who are exposed to violence at a young age show changes in their DNA equivalent to several years of premature aging; that’s the finding of an international group of scientists who analyzed data from the Environmental Risk Study (E-Risk), which tracked 2,232 children born between 1994 and 1995 in England and Wales. The researchers focused on 236 children whom they followed from age 5 to 10. Nearly half of the children had had some exposure to violence, either in the form of observing violent acts against their mother, being bullied themselves” (Park, Alice, “How Bullying and Abuse May Age Children Prematurely,” Time, 24, 2012).
The Effects of Bullying and Abuse May be Literally Life and Death
Self Harm and the Victims of Bullies
Tragically, bullying can lead to the ultimate damage, self-harm or suicide. There have been a number of high profile cases where, disastrously, the (cyber) bullying has led to the victim succumbing to suicidal ideation.
Bullying and its toxic effects have been highlighted most dramatically — and horrifically — in the phenomenon of school shooting tragedies. Most bullying occurs in and around school — and school is a mandatory event. There is no escape to school attendance, and if left unchecked, for some victims, no intervention in being the victim of bullying. No one knows the exact mechanism that drives these tragedies, and of course there are many factors involved, but one of the constants is that “Most school shooters in the past have felt bullied or rejected by their peers”.
Final Thoughts about How You can Be Involved in Breaking the Cycle
Now that we’ve explored the dangers and damage left in the wake of bullying incidents, let us stop — pause — and reflect upon what steps we might implement to end the cycle of abuse and bullying.
Encourage your child to confide in you about what is happening in his life, with his friendships, and his school experience. Keep an open dialogue. Express your interest in your child’s relationships and environment. Model good behavior — kid’s learn by example as well as by conversation. Let them know that they are cared for, valued, and safe. Talk about, share — and demonstrate — examples of the qualities of dignity, peace, and the inherent right of everyone to enjoy nurturance and safety.