Stories of bullying incidents seem to appear in the news almost every single day, and research shows that the results of bullying often last for years. According to the United States Department of Health & Human Services, bullying results in more than an emotional change in the victim. Victims, their friends, bystanders, and family members may each experience a variety of effects when someone is bullied.
A variety of issues may result when a child experiences bullying. Not only are there potential mental impacts, but a child may even become sick. Mental issues impacting bullied kids include depression, as well as anxiety and sadness. A sense of loneliness often permeates the bullied child, and he or she might not be able to sleep. A child may eventually stop participating in activities he or she likes, and a loss of appetite may follow.
Kids who experience bullying are more likely to drop out of school and may even start to miss classes even if the child once enjoyed going to school. Standardized test scores often plummet after a bullying incident, and the child’s report card may show several failing or barely passing grades. These problems in school have the potential to impact a child’s entire life and adulthood.
Shockingly, the impact on a child from bullying may even lead to violence. Further information from the U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services suggests that a dozen out of 15 school shootings in the 1990s happened after the shooter experienced bullying when they were younger. Although all children won’t decide to turn to violence, the mere suggestion of such a result is evidence that bullying is a childhood issue that needs to be taken seriously.
How Bullying Impacts the Attacker
Bullying isn’t a one-sided event and even the kids who decide to bully another person will experience changes. Interestingly, the results of bullying include an increase in the level of violence a child might otherwise commit. The “mob mentality” of bullying may lead children to start experimenting with dangerous things like drugs and unsafe behavior.
For example, a child who starts bullying others may take the next step and start destroying property, instead of just destroying lives. An increase in fighting and the tendency to abuse drugs and start drinking alcohol are likely habits for teens and young people with an addiction to bullying others.
Unfortunately, bullies often carry their dangerous behavior into adulthood by engaging in sexual promiscuity and leading a dangerous adult lifestyle. Just like the people they abuse, bullies are also likely to drop out of school and lead a violent lifestyle that solicits the attention of the law and may even result in jail time. Bullies may also abuse the adults in their lives when they grow up and be violent toward significant others and their own children.
There are often more people involved than just the individuals who decide to bully others and the victims of those violent behaviors. Bystanders are another volatile element of the bullying equation. The impact on kids when they have to go to school in an environment that’s filled with bullies often inspires those kids to act as if they’ve been bullied.
Not only are bystanders likely to start using drugs at an early age, but those children may even decide to try alcohol at an early age and start experimenting with dangerous behaviors. Just like victims, bystanders may start exhibiting mental health issues, and may become depressed or start feeling anxious in social situations. This may lead to the child skipping school or trying to find reasons to miss classes.
Bullying on LGBT Youth
One of the most-impacted groups of bullying today include LGBT youth. A survey conducted in the last decade revealed that a majority of school-age children knew a classmate who identified as LGBT. Unfortunately, even students who don’t identify as LGBT yet who might be perceived as such may be at greater risk for bullying in school.
One of the most significant issues experienced by these youths is the likelihood of experiencing suicidal thoughts due to being bullied. Incredibly, bisexual, gay, and lesbian youth are twice as likely to have thoughts of suicide as their non-LBGT schoolmates. In addition, these youths are more likely to attempt suicide beyond having thoughts about it.
Like other bullied youth, LGBT students may decide to skip school and participate in dangerous behaviors like drinking excessive amounts of alcohol and smoking at an early age. The results of bullying on LGBT youth also often include problems with depression, which may follow the children into adulthood and impact their ability to function as a successful, happy member of society.
Risk of Disorders While an Adult
According to an article on PsychCentral regarding the results of bullying when children arrive at adulthood, researchers in Finland found that bullying results in antisocial personality disorders, anxiety, or a host of other serious mental disorders. Most notably, the study showed that it wasn’t just the bullied kids who grew up with the threat of mental disorders, but the kids who participated in the bullying as well.
The way in which the study worked was that researchers surveyed over 2,500 boys who were all born in 1981. When those boys reached eight years, the scientists questioned them about bullying. The boys were asked whether they participated in bullying or whether they were victims, bystanders, or both. Then, when the boys reached adulthood, the scientists looked at the psychiatric activity of the boys when they had to take medical exams around age 18 to 23.
Incredibly, boys who had been impacted by bullying in any way showed a strong likelihood of developing a psychiatric disorder. The study’s researchers recommended that strong steps be taken during a child’s early school years to prevent bullying.
One of the most important issues to consider regarding bullying is that it’s not an issue that impacts kids when they’re young and is forgotten after a child reaches adulthood. According to the American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress (AAETS), bullying isn’t just a normal part of growing up. Bullying is actually abuse, and a child doesn’t need to be physically harmed by bullying to label it as such.
According to AAETS, Some of the long-term, life-changing effects of bullying include a reduction of occupational prospects, lack of an ability to trust others, and anger that may turn into thoughts of revenge. In addition, children may grow up to become loners or adults who don’t want to socialize with anyone else, which greatly complicates a child’s ability to become a normally functioning adult.
Other long-term bullying results may include:
- Problems with self-esteem
- Feeling like a victim
- Further experiences of bullying
- A permanently angry or bitter personality
Each of these long-term effects is compounded by the immediate and short-term problems of depression, physical ailments, poor school performance, and early avoidance of social situations. Bullying is a problem that places significant negative impact on a child that lasts for a lifetime.
Age of Bullying Experience and Results
The AAETS also talks about the difference that early exposure to bullying versus bullying in the teen years makes on a person’s adult life. Interestingly, kids who experienced bullying for the first time as a pre-teen weren’t as negatively impacted as kids who didn’t experience bullying until they were fully into their teen years.
Interestingly, kids bullied early in life have reported higher stress levels while kids bullied as teens reported long-term social awkwardness and a greater likelihood of self-destructive behaviors. Additionally, exposure to bullying as a teen resulted in different effects on men and women. While men might turn to substance abuse after being bullied as a teenager, women were more likely to adopt an aggressive personality.
Recent Surveys on Bullying
Internet community SmartGirl recently posted the results of a survey that asked 451 people around the ages of 12 and 15 about their experiences with bullying. Unfortunately, at least half of the respondents revealed that they “sometimes” had an experience with bullying.
Some of the emotions and reasons the survey takers gave for why bullying exists included words like “cool,” “fun,” and “boredom.” Unfortunately, many of the survey takers also felt that bullying was a normal part of growing up. The survey also showed that bullying was something that happened just about everywhere in school, as well as at a variety of ages.
Bullying today is a vital topic for discussion because of the difficult, long-term consequences of bullying in school. Bullying isn’t something that happens once and is an event long forgotten when a child reaches adulthood. Preventing bullying in school is an important exercise for parents and teachers who want kids to grow up into happy, well-adjusted adults.