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The Emotional Toll of Bullying in Schools

By — NYU Child Study Center
Updated on Jul 9, 2010

News reports of recent episodes of violent school shootings have described the shooters as isolated and lonely youngsters who were often teased, taunted and picked on by their peers. Parents, schools and mental health professionals have become increasingly aware that bullying is a pervasive problem and that its negative effects on the bully, the victim and the school atmosphere are considerable. According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 50% of children are bullied and l0% are victims of bullying on a regular basis. A number of children and adolescents have reported that they suffered side effects of bullying - a drop in grades, an increase in anxiety, a loss of social life.

Two new studies that corroborate these reports that bullying can cause emotional as well as physical harm were published in the March/April issue of the Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology.¹ In one study, the researchers found that kids who were victimized were physically sick (headaches and stomachaches) more often and had were absent from school more often than their peers. Results of another study involving almost 2,000 sixth-graders of primarily low income families, showed that victims of bullying experienced more depression and physical illness, missed more school and experienced more depression and physical illness than their peers. In addition, their school performance tended to be poorer. The specific bullying acts reported in these studies were name-calling and physical aggression such as kicking and shoving. Bullying also comes in other forms - it can be a physically aggressive attack or a psychologically aggressive attack such as social isolation, exclusion or nonselection.

These recent studies add to the growing signs that schools and parents need to take more action to counteract bullying.

Recommendations for Parents:

  • Assure your child that he or she is not to blame.
  • Don't encourage a bullying victim to fight back. Instead, suggest that he or she try walking away to avoid the bully or that they seek help from an adult.
  • Help your child practice how to react the next time he or she is bullied.
  • If you suspect that your child may be a bully, make it clear that you will not tolerate this behavior and arrange for a non-violent consequence of bullying behavior. Confer with your child's teacher and increase supervision of his or her activities.
  • Talk about teasing and bullying with your kids. Watch for bullying and teasing occurring in television programs, books and movies, and encourage discussions with leading questions such as "How do you think that person felt? What else could have been done?"
  • Be a role model that conveys an attitude of respect for all persons.
  • Work with the school to make sure each child is safe, that bullies are reprimanded in an appropriate manner, that monitoring at school is adequate and steps are taken to spread anti-bullying messages. Children should not be expected to handle bullies on their own.

Recommendations for schools:

School administrators should be encouraged to create a climate in which students themselves understand the importance of coming forward and warning of impending violence. Strategies designed to combat bullying, such as peer mediation, conflict resolution, anger management and zero tolerance programs that are being implemented in some schools should be encouraged.

Reference

1. Nishima, A. & Juvonen, J. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, March/April, 2005, vol 34; pp37-48

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About the NYU Child Study Center

The New York University Child Study Center is dedicated to increasing the awareness of child and adolescent psychiatric disorders and improving the research necessary to advance the prevention, identification, and treatment of these disorders on a national scale. The Center offers expert psychiatric services for children, adolescents, young adults, and families with emphasis on early diagnosis and intervention. The Center's mission is to bridge the gap between science and practice, integrating the finest research with patient care and state-of-the-art training utilizing the resources of the New York University School of Medicine. The Child Study Center was founded in 1997 and established as the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry within the NYU School of Medicine in 2006. For more information, please call us at (212) 263-6622 or visit us at www.AboutOurKids.org.

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