Helping Victimized Students: Thinking Matters (page 3)

By — Bullying Special Edition Contributor
Updated on Apr 26, 2010


How children and young people think about and interpret aggression which is directed toward them is important for their wellbeing. When discussing an experience of bullying with a child or adolescent it may be useful to:

  • Ask whether they feel they can change the problem themselves. Try to help them feel more in control of the situation. One way to do this could be by offering new behavioral strategies, allowing them to practice those strategies, and making it clear that assertive behaviors may need to be repeated again and again before they are successful.
  • Ask about what outcomes they foresee. Do they focus only on negative outcomes? Is that focus making the problem seem bigger than it is, or encouraging feelings of distress and upset which make it difficult when trying to respond assertively? Can they see the possibility for positive outcomes? Try to encourage more focus on positive outcomes, and help students to question whether all the negative outcomes they foresee are really that likely to occur. However, don’t suggest that negative outcomes are not going to happen: thoughts need to be realistic as well as healthy, and students are likely to quickly switch off if they think adults misunderstand their situation.


Author Information: Simon Hunter is a lecturer at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, UK. His research interests include understanding the consequences of victimization for children, the relationship of ethnicity to bullying, and children’s use of prosocial behavior.


1. Catterson, J., & Hunter, S.C. (in press). Cognitive mediators of the effect of peer-victimization on loneliness. British Journal of Educational Psychology.

2. Hunter, S.C., Durkin, K., Heim, D., Howe, C., & Bergin, D. (in press). Psychosocial mediators and moderators of the effect of peer-victimization upon depressive symptomatology. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.

3. Beck, A.T. (1967). Depression: Clinical, experimental, and theoretical aspects. New York: Harper & Row.

4. Mezulis, A.H., Hyde, J.S., & Abramson, L.Y. (2006). The developmental origins of cognitive vulnerability to depression: Temperament, parenting, and negative life events in childhood as contributors to negative cognitive style. Developmental Psychology, 42, 1012-1025.

5. Hunter, S.C., Mora-Merchán, J.A. & Ortega, R. (2004). The long-term effects of coping strategy use in the victims of bullying. The Spanish Journal of Psychology, 7, 3-12.

6. Hunter, S.C., & Boyle, J.M.E. (2004). Coping and appraisal in victims of school bullying. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 74, 83-107.

7. Hunter, S.C., Boyle, J.M.E., & Warden, D. (2006). Emotion and coping in young victims of peer-aggression. In P. Buchwald (Ed.) Stress and anxiety - Application to health, community, work place and education. Newcastle, UK: Cambridge Scholar Press (pp307-324).

8. Hunter, S.C., & Boyle, J.M.E. (2002). Perceptions of control in the victims of school bullying: The importance of early intervention. Educational Research, 44, 323-336.

9. Hunter, S.C., Boyle, J.M.E. & Warden, D. (2004). Help seeking amongst child and adolescent victims of peer-aggression and bullying: The influence of school-stage, gender, victimisation, appraisal, and emotion. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 74, 375-390.

10. Graham, S., & Juvonen, J. (1998). Self-blame and peer victimisation in middle school: An attributional analysis. Developmental Psychology, 34, 587-599.

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