Bullying refers to the consistent and deliberate actions used by individuals to undermine others. Such actions aim to cause distress and provoke the victims since they are perceived to be powerless. In schools, bullying poses a danger to young students since it creates an uncomfortable environment for them to learn and thrive while pursuing their education. With parents and teachers unaware of these cases, it becomes difficult to detect and correct, hence, forcing the affected parties to endure the abuse over extended periods. This affects their performance in school while initiating a series of problems as they continue with their education. Bullying has been identified globally as a cause for concern due to the repercussions that arise from its continued spread in schools. Therefore, bullying affects the learning process of students by undermining the balance of power, causing physiological and physical problems in their lives.
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While bullying may be perceived as a normal rite of passage in some age levels and schools, its impact on the lives of victims is far-reaching. Students who undergo this type of victimization in most cases lose their dignity and fail to take up the chances that present themselves during the learning process (Gordon, 2018). Therefore, some people may recover from the effects of bullying after a short while but others must endure the continued negative impacts throughout their lives as they develop into adulthood. This paper, thus, focuses on the definitions and causes of bullying, the prevalence and consequences associated with it, and possible intervention strategies employed to fight it.
Summary of Research
Definition and Causes of Bullying
The process of bullying involves the actions taken against others, either as a group or on an individual basis, towards another person incapable of properly defending against it. Behaviors are classified as bullying in instances where they occur intentionally, are repeated, and aim to change the balance of power. Ultimately, this makes it difficult for the victim to react or respond to such continuous attacks, empowering the bully. Menesinia and Salmivalli (2017) identify verbal attacks, social aggression, and physical behavior as the most common forms of bullying. Additionally, the onset of the digital age has also brought a rise in online bullying using social media. The above definition goes to show the extent to which the vice can manifest itself in learners pursuing education at a young age.
Bullying has evolved to be a global problem with students across different countries experiencing some form of victimization. Data from the United States Department of Health and Human Services showed a staggering 160,000 students have experienced a form of bullying in their school life, leading to them missing classes (Oliveira et al., 2018). The researchers further conducted a study to determine how bullying affected math scores in respondents in 6th grade. The aim was to understand the role of social-emotional skills in the students when influenced by bullying. From the results of the study, black students were more likely to experience bullying as compared to those from other races. Additionally, obese students also experienced a higher prevalence of being victimized. Social-emotional skills were determined to play a critical role in the ability of a student to be bullied. Ultimately, bullying caused a decline in the mathematics performance of the students showing a negative effect on the learning process.
Bullying further requires a social context to properly occur, hence, several stakeholders are involved. Individual influences affect a person’s ability to pursue this form of victimization against others in the school setting. These include psychopathic tendencies, antisocial feelings, masculine trends, and susceptibility to peer pressure (Swearer & Hymel, 2015). A student who displays any of these signs has a higher likelihood of developing into an oppressor of others. A combination of these factors, therefore, may also push a student to engage in bullying others. Additionally, peer influences can also act to increase the possibility of ill-treatment. Groups that view it as a normal rite of passage or acceptable are likely to allow it to happen. This highlights the important role that bystanders have in influencing the continuation of this vice in the school setting.
Apart from that, family influences also increase the prevalence of bullying, with the characteristics of immediate family members and relatives likely to impact young students living in such environments. The involvement of such people in gang activity, domestic violence, and the lack of parental support and communication, all negatively impact the minds of learners. This may develop feelings of aggression, which may be lashed out on classmates or peers during their interactions. This behavior can continue over time reinforcing the idea of power in the bully, eventually becoming addictive.
Consequences of Bullying
The prevalence of bullying varies among different jurisdictions arises due to challenges in definitions and measurement of the phenomenon. Cultural and linguistic differences are the leading cause of these problems since Western and Eastern countries perceive bullying in unique ways. Latin America showed a higher prevalence rate, ranging between 40-50% of teenagers who have experienced bullying (Menesini & Salmivalli, 2017). Furthermore, different communities view certain behaviors from various lenses, hence, causing the visible interpretations and levels of identification of the phenomena. About gender, boys showed a more likelihood of involvement in bullying as compared to girls. However, boys engage in physical forms of bullying while girls are likely to be involved in verbal confrontations. This shows that while boys have higher chances of experiencing the effects of bullying, girls are also affected in large numbers but a more subtle manner.
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In most cases, the bullied students show higher chances of missing school and reduced performance in class. Menesinia and Salmivalli (2017) highlight the consequences of victimization on the affected students. More bullying also caused higher anxiety levels and depression, based on the severity of the experiences. Ultimately, this can lead to cases of suicide, drug abuse and crime due to the psychological problems brought about by bullying (Menesini & Salmivalli, 2017). This disrupts society if left unchecked as more students who endure such circumstances look for coping mechanisms. The onset of such vices at an early age reduces the chances of affected individuals living fulfilling lives.
Intervention strategies suggested to stop bullying include school-based programs, anti-bullying policies, and the mobilization of bystanders. In schools, the involvement of parents, teachers, and the students in fighting the vice shows higher success rates in stopping it. These programs target the specific individuals with the intervention strategy to educate them on its effects, reporting mechanisms, and other prevention strategies (Menesini & Salmivalli, 2017). Apart from that, mobilizing bystanders who witness such acts of bullying but do not intervene can also play an essential role. This provides support to victims while reporting the offenders for further action by school administrations (Slee & Skrzypiec, 2016). Lastly, anti-bullying policies highlight the consequences of bullying in the school environment and should contain programs aimed at preventing the vice. These interventions are aimed to provide the first line of defense by making school environments safe and free from bullies.
The social-ecological model understands the complexity involved in the bullying process. Therefore, the use of this model to solve the problem in society accounts for the interconnectivity that a child has with their immediate environment. Additionally, the diathesis-stress model further understands the concept around stressors and the risk factors that may push one into this vice (Swearer & Hymel, 2015). The combination of these models, thus, provides the opportunity for adequate interventions in cases where psychological and physical harm may occur in the victim. Therefore, by employing educational efforts, great strides may be made to improve the social engagement of the students.
Bullying negatively impacts children in school by leaving psychological and physical scars during their development. As students, they perceive their educational settings as safe spaces where they get the opportunity to gain knowledge while interacting with their peers. However, their unique backgrounds pose a challenge since different upbringings affect them in various ways. As a result, some students may take this as an opportunity to show their prowess and aggressiveness on others who seem to be physically and mentally weak. Such behavior develops into bullying with each attempt giving the bully more motivation to act on their emotions. From the above research, it is evident that the prevalence of bullying has far-reaching implications, with students experiencing it from very early ages. This shows a problem in society since learners are affected from the onset of their education, affecting their overall development phase.
Mental problems may also develop in victims of bullying as evidenced in the above research findings. Most learners end up contemplating suicide while developing anxiety and depression after several episodes of bullying. The level of victimization to lead such minds into committing such drastic acts shows the significant toll it takes on them emotionally (Slee & Skrzypiec, 2016). As a result, their dreams fail to take shape, coupled with the stress it leaves for remaining family members and relatives. Therefore, parents and caregivers must learn to understand the signs of mental illnesses in young students to ensure that appropriate interventions may be taken before it is too late. The prevalence of psychological issues in young children, thus, provides a worrying trend for future generations as they gain knowledge.
To stop the continuity of bullying in school, it takes a communal effort with all stakeholders, to succeed. The issue of bystanders is brought about by all the authors mentioned above as a first defense towards preventing continued bullying. These are individuals who watch from afar without intervening to stop the abuse perpetrated by offenders. With more bystanders taking action, bullies can be brought to justice, with their role and power diminishing. Apart from that, parents also have a significant part to play by being the primary caregivers. The home environment was found to affect the development of bullying tendencies, especially if violence occurs occasionally in the presence of learners. Therefore, ensuring that students grow up in conducive environments can have a positive effect on developing proper behavior that includes the respect of others.
The continued use of the internet also raises another big problem with the onset of cyberbullying. With learners having access to the internet through computers and mobile phones, they become targets of victimization by their peers. Social media provides a voice for other learners to provide criticisms anonymously (Gordon, 2018). However, students tend to put a lot of feelings towards their image and brand online. Therefore, attacks on this image create a problem if it continues over extended periods. This makes the internet a very dangerous tool in propagating bullying in the virtual world. Furthermore, the difficulty to evaluate and assess these cases also challenges parents and authorities as they try to protect learners from its negative effects.
Conclusion and Discussions
The problem of bullying is not going away and will require continued research and review to find solutions that can adequately address the issue. Bullying affects the learning process of students by undermining the balance of power, causing physiological and physical problems in their lives. In most instances, an action may be classified as bullying in instances where it occurs intentionally and repeatedly, intending to change the balance of power. Oppressors gain power through their actions against their victims while taking it away from them due to their inability to respond. As a result, this makes it difficult for the victim to react to defend themselves against such continuous attacks.
The causes of bullying include interpersonal problems, family issues, and peer influences that support the development of this behavior in learners. These may worsen the issue by providing the chance for bullies to act out on their feelings. However, the consequences of bullying have far-reaching repercussions on the development of the victims. The possibility of developing mental problems increases while also affecting the performance of the learners in the long run. The inability to complete their education also affects the possibility of them having a prosperous future. However, it is possible to mitigate these problems by implementing appropriate interventions at an early stage. The development of anti-bullying policies can provide more information on the consequences of bullying while promoting the idea of respect for others. Additionally, school-based programs strategically targeted towards parents, students, teachers, and other stakeholders, can raise awareness on bullying. Lastly, the empowerment of bystanders can also drive more reporting and actions from third parties who view these acts performed against others.
This research has provided more insight into the problem of bullying in schools and the overall effect it has on the victims. The perspectives provided aim to highlight the outlying issues while offering possible intervention strategies. Some limitations in the interventions in the model interventions lie in their inability to be used on a general scale across the board. The social-ecological and diathesis-stress models can only be used in instances where the victims may have both psychological and physical problems as a result of bullying. This limits the ability to use the strategies in cases where students may face other difficulties. To adequately tackle this issue more efforts must be channeled towards evidence-based interventions. This creates the opportunity for the implementation of new and unique ways proven to work in reducing the menace in schools.
Gordon, J. U. (2018). Bullying prevention and intervention at school: Integrating theory and research into best practices. Springer.
Menesini, E., & Salmivalli, C. (2017). Bullying in schools: The state of knowledge and effective intervention. Psychology, Health & Medicine, 22(1), 240-253.
Oliveira, F. R., Menezes, T. A., Irffi, G., & Oliveira, G. R. (2018). Bullying effect on student’s performance. EconomiA, 19(1), 57-73.
Slee, P. T., & Skrzypiec, G. (2016). Well-being, positive peer relations and bullying in school settings. Springer.
Swearer, S. M., & Hymel, S. (2015). Understanding the psychology of bullying: Moving toward a social-ecological diathesis–stress model. American Psychologist, 70(4), 344-353.
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