Bullying behavior is a serious problem among school-age children and adolescents; it has short- and long-term effects on the individual who is bullied, the individual who bullies, the individual who is bullied and bullies others, and the bystander present.
Consequences for Individuals Who Are Bullied
Mounting evidence shows the detrimental effects on children’s health and behavior (Gini and Pozzoli, 2009; Lereya et al., 2015; Reijntjes et al., 2010; Ttofi et al., 2011). In this section, the committee reviews the research on physical, psychosocial, as well as academic achievement consequences for those children and youth who are victims.
Perspectives from the Field
Bullying makes young people incredibly insecure. It also makes you feel constantly insecure and on guard. It has a big mental and emotional impact—you feel unaccepted, isolated, angry, and withdrawn. You’re always wondering how you can do better and how you can escape a bully’s notice.
In this section, the committee examines the psychosocial consequences of bullying. A common method of examining mental health issues separates internalizing and externalizing problems (Sigurdson et al., 2015). Internalizing symptoms include problems directed within the individual, such as depression, anxiety, fear, and withdrawal from social contacts. Externalizing symptoms reflect behavior that is typically outwards toward others, such as anger, aggression, and conduct problems, including a tendency to engage in risky and impulsive behavior, as well as criminal behavior. Externalizing problems also include the use and abuse of substances.
Psychological problems are common after bullying and include internalizing problems, such as depression, anxiety, and, especially for girls, self-harming behavior (Kidger et al., 2015; Klomek et al., 2009, 2015). There can also be subsequent externalizing problems, especially for boys (see review by McDougall and Vaillancourt, 2015). Rueger and colleagues (2011) found a consistent concurrent association with timing of peer victimization and maladjustment. Both psychological and academic outcomes were particularly strong for students who experienced sustained victimization over the school year.