Bullying appears to occur in almost every country, and it is not exclusive to inner city areas. The incident with the Merrick football team this year only goes to show that no community is immune from the negative effects of bullying. Bullying takes many forms based upon the sex and age of the bully and the bullied. Male bullies tend to use their physicality to control others. Females bully by using more subtle means, such as sarcasm, excluding a girl from the group or activity, teasing, and spreading rumors.
Bullying appears to start quite early in the lives of children. Most of the research appears to be collected in school environments. According to the research, bullying behaviors can change with the age of the children. The data suggest that almost twice as many children in elementary school grades report being bullied than do children in middle school grades. The research also suggests children in the middle grades report being bullied more than do children in the high schools. It should be noted that the physical bullying may be reduced in high school, but the more subtle bullying appears to remain somewhat stable.
The research appears to show that bullying begins at home. Children who come from homes that condone physical discipline, where parents are inconsistent, and where assertive communication skills are not taught have tendencies to become bullies. The research has shown that children who bully others also tend to watch more violence on television and may be supervised less by the adults in their lives.
Those children who are bullied generally are more sensitive, and may be those who have already had some interpersonal insecurity. These qualities make these children more vulnerable to the bully. The children who are bullied can experience a further erosion of their self-esteem, more anxiety, and depressive ideation. In response to their negative experiences, they may become school phobic, have more generalized fears, become irritable or even aggressive. The research on long term effects of bullying on children has shown the possibility of increased levels of anxiety, lowered self-confidence, depressive ideation, and increased potential for suicide.
Many articles and discussions focus on the long standing problems victims face. However, the children who bully others are not free from problems, and they too may pay serious prices if their behaviors and problems are not checked. Research has shown that children who are bullies may have problems in school, are not liked by their teachers, and they have higher rates of alcohol and drug use than their peers. Interestingly, 60 % children who were bullies in the 6- 9th grades were later convicted of at least one crime by the time they are 24.
Given this information it is important that parents not ignore reports of bullying in and out of school. If your child is a victim, it is important to not dismiss their concerns as something they have to outgrow or adjust to. Teach them how to assert themselves and how not to respond with aggressive reactions. Help them understand, and work with, their school administration to get assistance to stop the problem. If necessary, intercede with the school staff on your child's behalf. If your child is experiencing high levels of anxiety, depression, school phobia or significant changes in their grades, it may be time for psychological intervention. If your child is the bully, it is important to try to understand why he or she feels inadequate and has the need to control their peers. Their behavior is transmitting a message that they are not happy individuals. It may be necessary to seek counseling for your child, or for the family, to ensure that communications and parenting styles are appropriate and helpful.
Bullying is a problem we all have to address. Ignoring the problem only makes it worse.