Are there emotional and psychological implications for children who are bullied and their bullies? Do some of those emotional and psychological issues follow children into adulthood?
There have been studies done on children who bully and their victims at the middle and high school levels. The studies have shown specific problems associated with bullying. In 1998 Rigby found a strong connection between being bullied and headaches. Rigby completed a follow up study in 1999 and found that severe victimization was often associated with poor physical health. In particular, victims were found to suffer from sleep disorders, bed wetting, headaches, stomachaches, and feeling unhappy (Williams et.al, 1996). Just as the type of bullying occurs differently between genders, so do the symptoms associated by the physical concerns. Boys tend to have more headaches and backaches, and to be more irritable then girls, who were more nervous and had more sleep disorders.
Being victimized also generates a great deal of distress in a child. Anxiety, depression, loneliness, isolation, and fear of going to school are all necessary elements present for emotional and behavioral disorders in the bullied child (Boulton & underwood, 1992). Houbre et.al (2006) found that the physical and psychological issues affect both the bully and the victim. Specifically for both are digestive problems, somatic pain and skin conditions, while victims seem to suffer from cognitive difficulties (Houbre et.al, 2006).
The question then is what do these physical and psychological issues present for an adult? Tritt and Duncan (1997) say that as adults, bullies and their victims report significantly more loneliness than normal. Through this study we know that at least some of the psychological difficulties related to childhood bullying also appear in adulthood, despite the fact that the victims are no longer in those bullying settings. It is clear that the childhood bullies and victims involved in this study are attending college, attempting to advance themselves and became successful adults (Tritt and Duncan, 1997). Despite these accomplishments and being in a setting were new relationships can be formed, bullies and victims still tend to report high levels of loneliness.
I recently spoke to a young woman who was bullied as a child in a small southern tier town. She was subjected to physical and psychological bullying by students during her middle and high school years. Physically she was hit, kicked, slapped and had a book bag thrown in her face. Psychologically she was degraded, called names, told she would never amount to anything, compared to family members who were on welfare and picked on because of the clothes she wore.
Her parents had always told her to ignore the bullying, but it didn’t work for her. Just as the research found, she felt like she was always alone in dealing with bullying. There were times that she felt like life wasn’t worth living anymore. She has told me that the bullying she experienced as a child has affected her negatively in her adult life. She still has issues with low self-esteem, always feeling like she isn’t good enough even though others tell her she did or does well on everything especially at home. Unfortunately this young woman dwells on past experiences. She still has times where she feels intimidated and still has issues with her physical appearance.
This young woman is dealing with bullying in her own way now. She is on a mission to not let other children experience what she did. As a teacher’s aide, she is on top of the bullying, or picking on another child. She lets students know that there is zero tolerance for lying, bullying, and disrespect towards adults. Bullying is her number one area that she is extremely tough on.
Bullying has lasting effects on the victim, even well into adulthood. Just because a bullying victim does well in life after school, it doesn’t mean they don’t still deal with issues that happened years ago. If you would like more information on bullying check out my previous articles, or click the link for kids tips on dealing with bullies.
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