The Consequences of Bullying: On How the Roots Go Deeper Than We Deem
In today’s world, the reported cases of violence among the youth have been escalating in our society. These cases of violence may present in a range of different forms, of which one of the most common is bullying. In my opinion, this issue is primarily concerned with human rights, in the fact that it profoundly affects children physically as well as psychologically and may ultimately ruin their entire lives.
Cases of harassment, violence and bullying are usually witnessed by every person in a school or college, but only a few of them are reported while the rest are overlooked. In this scholarly paper, I am making an effort to throw light onto this issue in order to provide a clear picture of its causes and eventual consequences that generally go unnoticed by the community, areas of research and higher authorities of respective institutions.
According to Mayer & Cornell (2010), “Bullying consists of repeated acts of intimidation and/or abuse over a period of time and is a growing issue both nationally and globally, with serious implications for both the victims and bullies.” It involves behaviors that are severe, persistent, and may cost the victim their physical or psychological well-being.
The many ways in which a bully can harm a victim may be categorized into different forms or types. Furthermore, bullies themselves can be affected by these types of behavior in an indirect way, which will also be discussed further in this scholarly paper.
I have personally witnessed the different effects many children and adolescents sustain as a result of youth violence and bullying, and every time I see them I ask myself, ‘What could be the causes that are leading to increased prevalence of bullying? Why would a bully choose to harm a victim? What would be the impact of bullying on a child’s psychological health? How could we identify if the child is going through victimization?
What could be done to stop or minimize these kinds of acts?’ Therefore, I have selected this as my topic of writing, so that I may explore the answers to my questions that have remained unanswered for ages. Moreover, this scholarly paper will help to create awareness among community members who usually fail to notice these acts in society.
In Pakistan, bullying is a prevailing and growing issue. However, it is constantly ignored in light of aggressive behavior being considered a normal phenomenon in a child’s physical development. This is the chief reason as to why bullying is not the center of attention in Pakistan, in spite of all the international researches and anti-bullying programs that aim to to eradicate this issue.
Retrospectively, no valid assessment tools were available to measure bullying in Pakistan till 2011, when students from the University of Sargodha translated Illinois Bullying Scale (IBS) for Pakistani children and adolescents from ages 8 to 18. It was the foremost essential step towards bullying measurement in Pakistan (Shujja & Atta, 2011).
A personal incentive that led me to choose this topic was the experience of my own friend as a victim of bullying in the 7th grade because of her obese build, which badly affected her studies and ultimately led her to change schools. It was the trauma of bullying that nobody noticed other than me. A number of people are going through the same stresses which go unnoticed by others. This is the reason why it is so crucial to address the signs which indicate that a person is being victimized.
To find out the prevalence of bullying in Pakistan, the ministry of health in collaboration with World Health Organization and Center of Disease Control and Prevention, United States conducted Global School-Based Health Survey for Pakistan in 2009. It involved 4696 Pakistani students of 8-10 grades. The overall prevalence of bullying victimization was found to be 41.3% — 45.1% males and 35.5% in females (Shaikh, 2013).
According to McGrath (2007), bullies can use a number of ways to victimize; however, it is usually categorized into three forms: physical, emotional and relational.
Physical bullying is the most common form, wherein a bully directly expresses harm to another or damages his or her belongings. It involves physical acts such as initiating a fight, blocking the way of the victim, pulling hair, kicking the victim, and even raping or killing.
Emotional bullying is intended to disturb the victim’s self-concept. It is portrayed by offensive or abusive gestures: filthy staring, taunting, calling insulting names, discourteous comments related to disability or sexual orientation, and threatening others.
Relational bullying is aimed towards destroying the victim’s feelings of acceptance. It involves using negative body language, spreading scandals or rumors, deliberate segregation or insulting in public.
Pertaining to the causes of bullying, there exist various reasons for bullying which may be associated not only with the bully but also with the victim. As discussed above, individuals with social or physical problems are more likely to be victimized. The most common causes of bullying in our country are internal family issues, insufficient parental or family guidance, domestic violence, disciplinary hostile methods, poor modeling by adults and disruptive problem-solving expertise.
Firstly, anger is a normal human sentiment that appears in response to any unpleasant event. It is usually considered healthy until and unless it manifests as uncontrolled rage. However, its expression can be constructive or destructive. People who criticize or confer obnoxious comments usually have no idea how to express their anger constructively (MuniRajamma, 2012). This pattern of expression is common to many of the people who bully; bullies generally harass and annoy others as an outlet for their anger.
Secondly, according to social learning theories, external environments significantly contribute to attaining and acquiring violent or aggressive behavior. Bandura (1986) states that children treat their adults as role models and try to imitate them. Recent researchers have utilized this theory to examine bullying in a learned social context. Klacznski and Cummings (1989) confirmed that impulsive and aggressive school-aged boys are more likely to repeat the act if they witness it from a powerful role model.
Thirdly, a recent research study suggests that children with physical or mental disorders or special healthcare needs are at increased risk of bullying or harassment. Children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are more likely to be at risk; besides this, they are also the ones more likely to bully their peers (Twyman, Saylor, Saia, Macias, Taylor, & Spratt, 2010).
Children with medical conditions that affect or change their bodily structures are also more likely to be victimized. These children often report name-calling associated with their disability (Dawkins, 1996).Lastly comes the connection of bullying with gender discrimination. It was found in a study that 70% of bullying victims were female while only 30% were male, hence clearly indicating that the perceived difference in gender is a major factor preceding the bullying (Mukhtar, Daud, Manzoor, Amjad, Saeed, Naeem & Javed, 2010).
In our community, males are considered to be more powerful and dominating than females, which apparently makes females more prone to victimization. Conversely, studies also show that both genders are involved in bullying but the forms they tend towards are often different. Boys are more likely to resort to physical bullying, such hitting or kicking, whereas girls are more likely to engage in relational aggression, such as spreading rumors or intentional exclusion of an individual from a group (Baldry & Farrington, 2000).
As I mentioned earlier, bullying affects an individual physically as well as psychologically. It leaves profound psychological scars which disturb victims throughout their lives. A large number of consequences are associated with bullying in many aspects, but some of the major consequences primarily related to children are discussed below:
Bullying is frequently associated with adjustment problems. Victims affected by bullying are usually ailed by depression, social anxiety, social isolation and low self-esteem (Hawker & Boulton, 2000). Card (2003) suggested that these victims demonstrate unusual and sudden strange behaviors in schools—avoidance, absenteeism, or weak academic performance. Such behavior should be monitored to prevent further adjustment issues and serious long-term consequences in children.
Furthermore, an Australian study on adolescences suggested that bullying is closely associated with physical health problems—headaches, stomachaches, diarrhea, coughing and anorexia, as some examples. The reason behind this is possibly the elevated stress hormones which ultimately affect the physical well-being in relation to bullying (Rigby, 2001).
It is important to realize that victimization is often associated with built-in rage; victims are forced into passivity and do not express their anger externally. Instead, they internalize it, and this internal aggression presents a risk of harm not only to the victim himself/herself but also to others.
Additionally, suicidal ideation and suicidal tendencies are strongly associated with victimization. A study reported that people with increased stress and poor problem-solving skills are more prone to committing suicide, which indicates that these factors may interact to influence the emergence of suicidal thoughts and ideations (Grover, Green, Pettit, Monteith, Garza, & Venta, 2009).
It is further witnessed that the relationship between bully and victim involves not only an individual but rather a group of people. Many students play a pivotal role in encouraging the bully even if they are not directly involved (Salmivalli & Voeten, 2004). On the other hand, a group of individuals are negatively influenced by the bullying attitudes of their peers, which unknowingly generates social anxiety and fear among them.
According to Skrzypiec, Slee, Murray-Harvey & Pereira (2011), “An anti-bullying philosophy is imperative in order to safeguard children’s coping skills.” Hence, to prevent the aforementioned consequences of bullying, it is necessary to imply anti-bullying interventions in all schools and colleges around the country.
Moreover, schools should also involve parents or guardians in collaboration, as they are the first ones to identify initial signs of bullying among their children. It is also important to remember that home environments can be one of the major factors of bullying. Involving parents as partners provides more social support to children in their studies and other curricular activities, proving beneficial for the entire school setup and community (Griffiths, 2013).
Apart from parental involvement, bullying should also be addressed firmly among all the members of the school community. School-based initiatives not only strengthen the schooling community but also overcome unsuccessful efforts of parents to correct the behavior of their children. Students should be made aware of the future consequences of their actions. At the same time, their positive efforts should be reinforced.
Strict policies should be implemented in schools to prevent bullying. Other than that, it is necessary to build a positive peer environment that discourages instead of encourages harmful acts performed by the bully. Besides this, student-teacher mentoring programs should be established for the counseling of both bullies and victims (Mukhtar et al, 2010).
In conclusion, there are many psychological effects of bullying on bullies, victims and their supporters. Anger, peer influence and the desire for dominance are primarily significant causes of bullying. Children with disorders are more prone to bullying. These causes affect an individual not only physically but also psychologically, creating adjustment issues among a plethora of other problems.
Besides this, bullying can also involve groups in their surroundings which can generate a risk of harm to self and others. School-based initiatives along with parental involvement can prevent the undesirable actions of children. Counseling of bullies and victims can also help in reducing future consequences of bullying.
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