Thursday, April 18, 2013

Bullying and the Effects on our Children


The effects of bullying are very serious and both the child who bullies and is bullied have long-term risk factors for a series of negative consequences.  This on-going issue is now treated with such seriousness by many, that in the early part of the 2000s, both the American Medical Association and Department of Jusitce came out with stringent guidelines for physicans and law enforcement officials to look for the symptoms of children being bullied in order to intervene early.  Yet one thing has become particularly clear, and that is that less obvious bullying behavior is not always recognized.  Psychological and even on-line bullying involving simple things like teasing, may be just as damaging as bullying that threatens violence or demands obedience.

Studies estimate that about a third to a fourth of children will routinely experience bullying.  In early school years, children may not be particularly singled out for differences but gender, ethnic, and sexual preference related bullying becomes more common at the secondary level.  The figure of those affected is relatively stark; 30% or more of kids will have the experience of being made to feel bad, unwelcome, abnormal, frightened or physically threatened, and possibly injured.
 
It is not surprising that children begin to manifest effects of bullying in a variety of symptoms.  These include higher absenteeism, which makes logical sense for children trying to avoid a negative environment.  Younger and older children, and even those outside of school may begin to have significant issues with depression and/or anxiety.  In fact, risk for developing long-term mental health issues greatly increases as self-esteem is regularly assaulted.

The very nature of the bullied child may change as part of the effects of bullying.  He or she may toughen up, which means often being less sensitive to others.  Some children who are bullied even become bullies.  Other children get less aggressive and withdraw from their peers or family.

The effects of bullying are not limited to the children who are bullied.  Allowing children to bully places them at high risk for poor social adjustment later in life.  Though recent statistics do not agree on this matter, there is a small to large potential for children who act in this manner to act criminally at a later point.

Bully behavior also suggests poor parenting with less attention than is useful to development.  Correcting that behavior and the situations from which it arises early may be a saving grace to all involved. It’s also been posited that the bully model may not be accurate, and that children in well-adjusted families can become bullies and are less often suspected of this behavior.
The trouble with the effects of bullying is that even schools do not always document it or investgate it. 

Certain things that seem overt get banned, but there are many insidious ways in which one child or group can bully another child.  Cyber Bullying has proven to be one of these areas, and simply flinging constant, but not swear word, insults at someone else is another method of emotional bullying.  These “softer” bullying forms prove not to be much less damaging that more recognizable forms of bullying; yet many schools draw a line at prohibiting the overt bully behavior and do not always catch more subtle actions.

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