Bullying comes in many forms. Some examples of what victims endure include: name calling, teasing, spreading rumors, pushing or shoving, stealing property, sexual comments or gestures, cyberbullying, leaving the person out of activities, hitting, slapping and kicking, threatening. It’s shocking to know that young people are subjected to this everyday at school and on the streets. What’s even more shocking is to realise that these children grow up still affected by their experience.
Poorer health, lower income, lower quality of life – more likely for victims of bullying
Many studies have been carried out to examine the affects of bullying on children. Researchers have learned that these affects are far-reaching and complex. They can take their toll well into adulthood.
It has been well established that bullying can cause depression, anxiety, conduct problems, psychosis and suicidal ideation in young people who have suffered at the hands of bullies. The Medical News Today reported from a study that highlighted some of the affects of bullying on children. It found that these children were prone to night terrors, sleep-walking and nightmares.
A 2014 study carried out at Kings College London UK, found that up to 40 years later there are still some negative effects of bullying both socially, physically and mentally. The researchers found that at age 50 people who had been bullied as children were more likely to be in poorer physical and psychological health and have more problems with cognitive functioning than those who had not been bullied.
Problems in other areas included: being more likely to be unemployed, earning less for those who were working and having lower educational backgrounds. They were also found to be less likely to be in a relationship or to have a good social support network. The victims themselves reported that they had a lower quality of life and life satisfaction than their peers who had not been bullied.
Those at the forefront of research stated:
“Our study shows that the affects of bullying are still visible nearly four decades later. The impact of bullying is persistent and pervasive, with health, social and economic consequences lasting well into adulthood” – Dr.Ryu Takizawa from the Institute of Psychiatry at Kings College London.
“Toxic Stress” and Bullying
Another study into the long-term affects of bullying examined the concept that bullying victimisation is a form of “toxic stress”. Advocates of this theory outline that this toxic stress affects the physiological responses of children. This might explain why otherwise healthy victims of bullying go on to develop health problems later in life.
It seems that elevated levels of a protein called CRP or C-reactive protein, have been found in victims of bullying. Traditionally, high levels of CRP are found in the blood when the body is fighting inflammation like arthritis, or an infection of some kind. This could explain the connection between poor health and bullying – the body is reacting in the same way to “toxic stress” as it would to an infection.
The Affects of Cyberbullying
Obviously these studies do not address the long term affects of Cyber Bullying – we need to wait and see what is found over time. We do know however, that a number of young people have already taken their lives after being bullied on line. The DHHS (Department of Health and Human Services) emphasises however, that in these cases there were other risk factors present and social media did not necessarily play the defining role.
New research outlines that cyberbullying is linked to teen depression. One million children have been harassed, threatened, or subjected to other forms of cyberbullying on Facebook. (Consumer Reports 2011)
Experts in Cyberbullying suggest that parents guide their children through safe practices when online instead of banning them from their computer when some kind of problem crops up.
The Future and Bullying
Professor Louise Arseneault of the Kings College Study says: “We need to move away from any perception that bullying is just an inevitable part of growing up”.
She advocates the use of early intervention to prevent problems arising in the first place.
According to these studies we know that bullying has been going on for more than 40 years. Maybe it has always been a reality. However it continues despite anti-bullying campaigns, better awareness and educational programmes in schools. Professor Arseneault is right – we can’t just accept bullying as an expected part of life. As a society it is imperative that we act on this knowledge to rid our schools of bullying. It seems to me that maybe if we took our focus off the victims and onto the bullies we might learn more about how and why it’s happening in the first place.