Updated: Mar 20
Of the many menaces of Adolescent development, Bullying is one the most prevalent and disturbing. Although bullying is not restricted to schools it is present in every walk of life in colleges, workplaces, social localities, streets, offices, homes, even among nations you name it some or the other form of bullying exists everywhere.
The psychological implications of bullying no one can fathom if it’s not addressed at the right time and in the right manner. Both parties, the one who bullies and the one who is being bullied go through varied behavioural and psychological changes in the process. Even the bystanders or people who are witness to the acts of bullying are impacted adversely.
Let us try to explore all aspects of bullying, why it happens, who are the victims and how it impacts the people involved. All shall be discussed in the context of children here.
What is Bullying?
Bullying can be verbal, physical, non-verbal acts of intimidating, harassing, condescending or threatening someone because of any reason that could be gender (male/female/third), physique (thin, fat, short, tall, voice, hair, mannerisms, handicap etc.), caste/creed (schedule caste, other backwards classes, poor, blacks, chinki etc.), religion, underperformer, talent (good in studies, sports, extra-curricular activities etc.), meek or shy personality etc. but evidence have shown many a times bullying could be just habitual that requires no reason. It can be classified as follows:
Generic bullying – Insulting, threatening or making fun of someone
Bullying behind someone’s back – playing nasty jokes, spreading rumours, or encouraging peers to exclude someone
Physical bullying – pushing, tripping or hitting, or damaging property
Cyber-bullying – using digital technology to deliberately harass or humiliate. This is growing at an alarming rate more so because of accessibility and anonymity.
Bullying of any kind can be detrimental and cause long lasting harm if not intervened. The victims are unable to react, respond or oppose or even report but just face it regularly.
Who is a Bully and why does he/she bullies?
A bully can be anyone who thinks himself or herself to be in a superior position and feels it his/her right to tease, taunt, intimidate, and harass even thrust violence. Still the following are the major factors that contribute to bullying behaviour:
Behavioural Problems: An individual who has a history of problematic aggressive behaviour since childhood or has conduct disorder
Family Background: adolescents who are exposed to aggression and submission in their own families or other outside interactions treat others the same way to practice the learned behaviour or take it out on unsuspecting children to vent out their own frustrations at home.
By habit/examples or lack of awareness: Some teenagers don't know or realise that it's unacceptable to pick on others who are different because of size, looks, race, or religion, particularly those that frequently see this behaviour from other people in their own lives.
Feeling of Insecurity: Picking on someone who seems emotionally or physically weaker can provide a feeling of importance, popularity, or control.
A bully seeks pleasure in submission of the bullied person. The bullied person if cries, appears vulnerable or is unable to retaliate then it adds to the feeling of achievement (power, superiority) of the bully.
Some bullies even find joy in beating up animals and aggravating them.
Signs that your child is being bullied
Losing interest in activities previously enjoyable
Refusal to go to school or make frequent excuses to not go to school
Unexplained bruises and pains
Behavioural changes e.g. displaying aggression, talking back, irresponsible
Lack of emotions, rigid and rude
Too emotional and sensitive
Lack of self-confidence, self-esteem
Decline in School Performance
The children who view bullying incidences can be adversely impacted too since they are at a very impressionable age. So they can become future bullies or be filled with guilt for not being able to intervene or make some difference in the situation. Such children in later stages of life may not be able to take up challenges or deal with adverse situations. They shall be the sufferers or burden takers.
As already mentioned many a times parents are the first bullies in the life of a child. To get the child to act, behave and operate in a certain manner parents use bullying mechanisms like threat and intimidation. Children learn and pick from people around them, parents are someone they always look up-to as role models. Hence it becomes even more important for parents to be aware of how their own behaviour, verbal communications, actions can impact their child.
How to help and support your child, if bullied?
Bullying has become quite a serious problem especially amongst children. Kids as young as 8 to 10 yrs are being reported for bullying behaviour. Easy access to mobile, internet and quick fulfilment of demands, reduction in constructive family time, lack of a robust personality building experiences and the pressures of the developmental phase leads to lot of frustration and impatience, bullying is one of the by-products of this overall challenging environment.
If and when you realise that your child is the victim of bullying kindly do the following:
Sit and talk with your child in a very friendly way. Your child might be reluctant to speak and share but encourage him to speak either with yourself or with somebody whom the child trusts.
Do not avoid the situation and believe that it will go away on its own. Of course bullying is part of the behavioural growing phase as well and may go away with time. Still never good to avoid the topic.
If the bullying does not stop then advisable to report to the school authorities for appropriate action.
Be patient with your adolescent child and allow him to express his emotions, feelings and confusions freely without hesitation. This confidence in you is a must for your child.
Discuss options rationally that are available when your child is being bullied. Even if advised to walk away and not challenge the situation, the child should not lose his confidence but realise that it could be the best option available. Many a time’s confrontation can aggravate the situation.
Sensitization of your child on such relevant topics is a must because ignorance puts both the child who bullies and the one who is bullied in jeopardy.
Lot of research studies done on bullying indicate that both the bullier and the bullied experience adverse mental health outcomes in adulthood. The victims usually develop depressive tendencies whereas the one who bullies develops anti-social tendencies. Here are the psychological impacts of both in adulthood.
Poor school performance
Difficult to maintain social relationships
Increased absentee risk (from school)
Increased risk of substance abuse
Increased risk of wife and or child abuse
Risk of anti-social behaviour
Low job prospects and positive growth in life
Victim of Bullying
Increased risk of suicidal thoughts, suicide plans, and suicide attempts
Post-traumatic stress disorder
Poor general health
Self-destructive behavior, including self-harm
Difficulty establishing trusting, reciprocal friendships and relationships
These outcomes are not necessary to happen and children as they grow can develop coping mechanisms or even learn to tackle such situations. At the same time immediate intervention and long term follow-up can very well resolve some of the above adverse effects. It is imperative that schools, families, and societies work together to understand bullying and its repercussions and find ways to decrease, and hopefully eradicate, bullying especially from schools.
PeaceofMind, strongly feels about this sensitive issue of our teenagers and provides guidance and counselling in this regard to students and parents. Our endeavour is to address such prevalent issues through lot of sensitization workshops and extending counseling help for timely intervention.
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