Bullying is a form of youth violence. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), bullying, particularly among school-age children, is a major public health problem. Although definitions of bullying vary, most agree that bullying includes:
- Attack or intimidation with the intention to cause fear, distress, or harm that is either physical (hitting, punching), verbal (name calling, teasing), or psychological/relational (rumors, social exclusion);
- A real or perceived imbalance of power between the bully and the victim; and
- Repeated attacks or intimidation between the same children over time.
Bullying can occur in person or through technology (electronic aggression, or cyberbullying). Electronic aggression is bullying that occurs through e-mail, a chat room, instant messaging, a website, text messaging, or videos or pictures posted on websites or sent through cell phones. A young person can be a bully, a victim, or both (bullyvictim).
Bullying can result in physical injury, social and emotional distress, and even death. Victimized youth are at increased risk for mental health problems such as depression and anxiety, psychosomatic complaints such as headaches, and poor school adjustment. Youth who bully others are at increased risk for substance use, academic problems, and violence later in adolescence and adulthood. Compared to youth who only bully, or who are only victims, bully-victims suffer the most serious consequences and are at greater risk for both mental health and behavior problems.
Bullying is widespread in the United States.
- In a 2009 nationwide survey, about 20% of high school students reported being bullied on school property in the 12 months preceding the survey.
- During the 2007-2008 school year, 25% of public schools reported that bullying occurred among students on a daily or weekly basis. A higher percentage of middle schools reported daily or weekly occurrences of bullying compared to primary and high schools.
- In 2007, about 4% of 12- to 18-year-old students reported having been cyberbullied during the school year.
A number of factors can increase the risk of a youth engaging in or experiencing bullying. However, the presence of these factors does not always mean that a young person will become a bully or a victim. Some of the factors associated with a higher likelihood of engaging in bullying behavior include:
- Impulsivity (poor self-control)
- Harsh parenting by caregivers
- Attitudes accepting of violence
Some of the factors associated with a higher likelihood of victimization include:
- Friendship difficulties
- Poor self-esteem
- Quiet, passive manner with lack of assertiveness
The ultimate goal is to stop bullying before it starts. Research on preventing and addressing bullying is still developing. School-based bullying prevention programs are widely implemented, but infrequently evaluated.
Based on a review of the limited research on school-based bullying prevention, the following program elements are promising:
- Improving supervision of students
- Using school rules and behavior management techniques in the classroom and throughout the school to detect and address bullying, providing consequences for bullying
- Having a whole school anti-bullying policy, and enforcing that policy consistently
- Promoting cooperation among different professionals and between school staff and parents
- Improving socialization skills of children at risk for being bullied
The Fairfax County Public School System takes bullying seriously. They have a comprehensive bullying prevention program which you can find out more about on their website at http://www.fcps.edu/dss/ips/ssaw/violenceprevention/bullyprevention.shtml.
At Fairfax Mental Health, our psychiatrists treat this and other conditions. Call us at 703-830-1500 to discuss your needs or schedule an appointment.