Bullying is one of the most prevalent current issues for children and experiences of bullying can have devastating consequences. Bullying can happen to any child at any age and can affect child development, mental wellbeing and impact relationships, self-esteem and socialization for a lifetime.
Whether you’re a parent, teacher, coach or other adult who interacts with children, if you’ve come across bullying, here’s what you need to know about what can cause bullying among youth and the effects of bullying.
What can cause bullying?
The United States Department of Health and Human Services describes bullying as the aggressive and negative behavior among school aged children that involves an unfair distribution of power.
While peers with the same status and physical and cognitive advantages may have conflict, when bullying occurs one party is always more vulnerable than the other. For example, bullying could target a younger kid, a smaller kid, a child with an impairment (such as a physical or mental impairment) or involves a group of kids ganging up on fewer kids.
The root cause of teen bullying should never be assigned to the victim of bullying. Blaming the victim only perpetuates the violence of bullying. Bullying can be caused by a variety of environmental, social and emotional factors. According to Nemours Children’s Health, the following are common causes of bullying.
- Bullies are looking for attention (even negative attention) due to a lack of attention from caregivers and others in their lives
- Bullies may feel that aggressive and demeaning behavior will gain them popularity and favor with other students or adults
- Bullies may be trying to meet some personal emotional need to feel important or powerful
- Bullies may be replicating behavior that was directed at them at some point, either stemming from a dysfunctional home life or being bullied themselves
- Bullies may be unaware or apathetic regarding the feelings of others
There is no single reason for why kids bully and many factors may contribute to the behavior.
What are the effects of bullying on mental health?
Teen bullying, even bullying that occurs once, can have a lasting impact. The severity of the effects of bullying is dependent on several factors.
- The intensity of the bullying (for example, if other children were violent or cruel in their methods and if a permanent injury was sustained)
- The frequency and duration of the bullying
- The severity of the power imbalance between the bully and the victim
- Whether the victim was believed and given assistance when asking for help
- Whether the assistance offered was effective
- The victim’s social support or lack thereof
- The victim’s physical and cognitive capacities
The effects of bullying will be different for each person and each scenario, any will be impacted by the above factors. When an adolescent endures bullying of any kind or any intensity, the following mental health effects may result.
- Increased anxiety: fear of attending school, fear of walking down certain hallways, fear of being alone, separation anxiety and fear of older or bigger adolescents
- Depression: children and teens who are victims of bullying may blame themselves and feel shameful or hopeless about the future
- Attention problems: adolescents who are bullied may be so preoccupied with avoiding bullies in school that academic performance decreases and learning suffers
- Trauma: children who experience extreme bullying may struggle with the repercussions of that trauma, such as PTSD
- Physical disorders, like eating disorders or substance use disorders: children who are bullied may develop harmful coping strategies to manage the emotional distress of bullying
The mental health consequences of this type of behavior should be considered a public health concern. Not only will teens suffer in the days, weeks and months following an incident of bullying, but may face ripple effects years down the line.
What are the long-term effects of bullying?
A study in the journal Archives of Diseases in Childhood explores the long-term effects of bullying and lists consequences for both the victim and the bully in several categories. The following are long-term effects of bullying that have been studied and observed.
Long-term effects for victims
- Higher likelihood of experiencing agoraphobia, generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder in adulthood
- Increased risk of depression and internalizing problems
- Increased risk of psychotic problems by adulthood
- Higher risk of poor general health (which was observed at ages 23 and 50 in victims of childhood bullying)
- Slower recovery from illness in young adulthood
- Frequent bullying was indicative of frequent daily smoking
- May increase the likelihood of self-harm or suicidal behavior
- Decreased educational and wealth attainment
- More likely to have financial struggles, such as maintaining a job and had lower earnings than their peers
- Struggles making and keeping friends
- Decreased the likelihood of maintaining a stable relationship and having social support
The long-term impact of bullying on victims is significant. If you know a child or teen who is struggling with the effects of bullying, it’s time to get help.
High Focus Centers offers counseling to adults and adolescents virtually or in-person. Highly experienced clinicians create personalized treatment plans so you can be sure you’re getting the care you need to heal the root of your concerns. Call High Focus Centers today to make an appointment.