Bullying is often considered to be a kid’s problem. What few people realize, though, is that children that are victims of bullying grow up with a lot of baggage attached. They do not simply leave behind their experiences when they graduate high school. Some consequences of bullying can follow an individual throughout their entire life.
Most adults can recall being the victims of bullying at least once during their life. In fact even bullies find themselves being bullied at times. However, it is the long term effects of deep, emotionally scaring victimization that has many researchers concerned. In 1993 Dan Olweus conducted an in depth study following the lives of fifteen young people. Some of these young people found themselves the bullying victim and some of them found themselves being the bullies. The Olweus research found a profound link between the young people that were victimized and an increased amount of depression and suicidal thoughts as adults. This research became the ground work for The Olweus Bullying Prevention Program www.violencepreventionworks.org.
Another disturbing element of the Olweus research is that children who are bullied and victimized tend to maintain a role of victimization even as they grow older. The feelings of helplessness that victimization brings will often create a destructive cycle in which the victim begins to believe that they cannot do anything to change the situation, or, even worse, that they somehow deserve the abuse because they are different from everyone else. Over times some victims adopt the role of victim and begin to apply that to other areas of their lives with destructive results.
With age most bullying victims acquire better coping skills and learn how to create support systems for themselves to help deal with the emotional scars from childhood, but that does not mean the scars go away.
Cheryl Rode, director of Clinical Operations at the San Diego Center for Children, defines bullying as, “a repeated, harmful, aggressive act in a situation where there is an imbalance of power.” This imbalance of power can haunt a child into their teen and adult years giving them a constant feeling of inadequacy and lack of personal power. This lack of personal power can cause some individuals to shy away from situations in which they fear they may be mistreated. This can become a double edged sword for adults because in a way they can protect themselves from being mistreated, but at the same time they are cheating themselves out of valuable life experiences because of their fear. This can have ill effects on personal relationships and even an individual’s career life.
More on what happens when victims of bullying grow up…
Alec Miller, child psychologist at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, warns of the other path some victims take, and that is the path of becoming bullies themselves. “”They take their frustration and emotional upset and direct it toward others.” This is the type of victim that our society has come to fear in the recent decades as we have seen numerous cases of school shooters that were reported to have been bullied for years. These individuals are literally ticking time bombs that are waiting for the opportunity to seek revenge on their tormentors. Those are extreme cases, but it cannot be dismissed as a reality. When individuals must deal with deep emotional upset without any support or system of coping skills the outcome can be dire.
Parents and teachers may feel like it is an age old problem that there is simply no solution to. This is a pessimistic and destructive notion that empowers bullies. Intervention is one of the most profound tools that parents and teachers have at their disposal. Not only is intervention important on behalf of the victims, but it is also important on behalf of the bully. Most bullying actions are a result of unresolved emotional pain that a young person is dealing with all alone. The young person may not understand why they are feeling the way they are, or they could be angry over personal situations in their home life. Intervention and counseling can often help prevent a lifetime of bullying behavior when a young person realizes that they do not have to deal with all of their anger and aggression by themselves.
Spread the word and educate others on what happens when victims of bullying grow up…