Q How can bullying affect a child’s self esteem and integration in society?
In bullying there is an imbalance of power, a sense of helplessness and sometimes a feeling of inescapability. Some children refuse to go to school when they are victims of bullying. Studies suggest that there is a relationship between a victim’s perception of control over their bullying experience and the extent of long-term difficulties. Those who can control the situation better have more beneficial long term outcomes than those who feel a sense of helplessness. This indicates that the emotional harm of bullying may be far greater than the physical.
While bullying certainly does affect self-esteem, the problems go beyond that. Bullying can predispose vulnerable individuals to a host of issues including anxiety and depression. Again, this can be considered chronic stress on the child’s developing brain, and can even alter how they react to situations later in life, thus even impacting their personality formation.
The consequences of bullying can also affect the way one interacts with peers and may lead to isolation within peer groups. The negative templates of these interactions can in turn, influence the way these children interact and perceive themselves when they are adults.
Q Why do certain children reflect characteristics of a bully and why do some kids become the subject of bullying especially in school?
Studies show that boys generally tend to bully more than girls. While boys tend to have a more physical aspect to bullying, with newer forms of bullying using electronic and social media, gender differences are less clear.
It has also been found that those who bully are more likely to have conflicts at home and perceive school negatively. They have also been found to consistently perform poorly at academics.
A victim meanwhile, is more likely to lack social and problem-solving skills and be already isolated or rejected by peers. It appears that those with these types of characteristics are more likely to gain the attention of bullies. There is also evidence to show that a proportion of victims of bullying are likely to end up bullying others later on. However, these stereotypes do tend to change.
Because some children might not admit overtly that they were bullied, being sensitive to how your child acts and feels and generally knowing what is taking place in their lives is central to being able to help.
It is also generally understood that having a network of supportive family members and friends reduces the impact of being bullied. Having someone to confide in, receive advice on solving social problems and having someone for support are all important. This in turn reduces the sense of helplessness they may otherwise feel.
As parents, it is also important to teach children how to deal with difficult social situations and provide them with opportunities to learn social skills. These skills are likely to be as important as any academic skill that we give so much attention to.