Students who are being bullied often exhibit some warning signs. According to Olweus9)
, these students may
- have torn, damaged, or missing pieces of clothing, books, or other belongings
- have unexplained cuts, bruises, and scratches from fighting
- have few, if any, friends with whom they spend time
- seem afraid of going to school, walking to and from school, riding the school bus, or taking part in organized activities with peers, such as those of clubs or sports
- take a long, "illogical" route when walking to or from school
- lose interest in doing schoolwork or suddenly begin to do poorly in school
- appear sad, moody, teary-eyed, or depressed when coming home from school
- complain frequently of headaches, stomachaches, or other physical problems
- frequently have bad dreams or trouble sleeping
- experience loss of appetite
- appear anxious and have low self-esteem
Children typically targeted by bullies are often smaller or younger than the bullies are. Being more sensitive and cautious than other children, they usually blame themselves for the attack, consequently feeling worthless, anxious, depressed, and insecure. Those who are bullied at an early age are also often bullied later in life. Being a target of bullying affects the development of a child's social skills, and hampers the child's future success at school and academics.
While physical threats may seem more terrifying than verbal threats, children who are bullied are just as devastated by ostracism or other forms of social trauma. These children experience real hostility that interferes with their social and academic development.
Perren and Alsaker17)
examined social behaviors and peer relationships among children between the ages of 5 and 7 years who were involved in bullying in kindergarten. They discovered that children who were bullied were more submissive, more withdrawn, more isolated, less cooperative, less sociable, had fewer leadership skills, and frequently had no playmates than those children who were not bullied. Secondary school students (aged 13 years) who were bullied had high risks of depression and anxiety over the following school year18)
Fekkes et al.19)
and Gini and Pozzoli20)
found that school children who were bullied had higher risks for psychosomatic symptoms and depression than those who were not bullied. Given that psychosomatic and psychosocial health problems follow an episode of bullying, they recommended that medical practitioners screen patients with these problems for signs of being bullied. In addition, because children with depressive symptoms and anxiety are at an increased risk of being bullied, parents of these children should be guided in terms of tapping the appropriate resources to enhance their children's coping skills.
Bullying can result in loneliness, depression, anxiety21
, low self-esteem, increased susceptibility to illness23)
, poor grades, and suicidal thoughts. The aggressive behavior of a bully interferes with a child's ability to think clearly and rationally. In bullying, the bully and the child being bullied become less sensitive to violence. In many cases, the friends and classmates of the bully and the one being bullied accept the violence as normal.
The effects of bullying can be serious and even fatal. Suicidal ideation was especially frequent among bullied children who had little social support24)
. Some children who experienced bullying committed suicide rather than continue to endure being bullied25)
In the long-term, bullying can lead to posttraumatic stress disorder and inability to form social relationships. Those who have been targets of bullying may experience long-term emotional and behavioral problems. Children who are bullied manifest adjustment problems, including internalizing disorders, externalizing disorders, social difficulties, physical health problems, and suicidal ideation2
. Chronic victimization increases the risk for low self-esteem, the use of psychotropic medications, and the tendency for violent actions toward self and others8)
. Identifying incidents of bullying and victimization during early school years, particularly among boys, may be useful in identifying those who are at risk for psychiatric disorders in early adulthood6)