Impact of Bullying on the Individual and the School

Once there existed a misconception that bullying was a normal aspect of childhood. You simply had to stand up to the bully, and toughen up. This mentality never solved anything, and further escalated the problem, as the victim had to turn into a bully himself in order to survive.

Fortunately this has changed, as nowadays bullying is recognised as a deliberate act that hurts young victims in terms of their emotional and physical well-being (Scarpaci, 2006).

Bullying victims are affected by this problem, but also the people around them. Bullying is a cause of distraction, intimidation and disturbance for the students and teachers who witness it. It can be disruptive and can prevent students from learning and teachers from reaching the students (Scarpaci, 2006).

Bullying comes in different forms, such as physical (e.g. hitting, shoving, slapping, tripping), verbal (e.g. name-calling, derision, teasing, racist remarks, and social (e.g. rejecting someone, turning them into outcasts).  It consists of intentional and repetitive harm, and presents a difference of power in terms of physical, and social between the bully and the victim. In this article we will investigate the basic effects on the individual and the school.

Effects on the Individual

Bullying must be viewed from empirical research in order to develop an understanding and a sense of urgency as to why this behavior must be eliminated from any school setting. The description of school bullying illustrates its negative impact for students and highlights the need to resolve this problem, as an serious issue within the group.  Whether intentional or not, when the harassment is directed towards a certain target, it is bullying.

Field (2006) asserts that the term “target” rather than victim, better describes the individual being bullied in the school.  Bullying, Field (2006) further explains, depicts, “the common denominator of harassment, discrimination, prejudice, abuse, persecution, conflict, and violence” (p.2). Even though bullying might be depicted in a form of emotional and psychological abuse in the school, it seldom manifests into a physical form.

Thus, the definition for this term must highlight the frequency and consistency of the negative behavior towards a certain individual. The preliminary survey reveals how frequently verbal attacks occur.  The need to sufficiently define the effects of school bullying is equivalent to recognizing the problems it causes and how it must be addressed.

In school, bullying typically aims to distort or fabricate rumors towards a target (Field, 2006). Even if this is not physical in nature and is subtle enough to be described in an outright manner, school bullying can still have significant effects on the students suffering from it.  The subtle nature of this problem can cause this problem to go unnoticed for long periods of time.

Parker-Pope (2008) notes that bullying in the school proves more common than most appear to realize.  Aylsworth (2009) notes a number of points regarding school bullying that include, but may not be limited to, what happens behind the scenes.  Most of the time co-students, especially teachers fail to catch incidences of bullying.

According to the study by Fisher-Blando, most witnesses of bullying acts are not able to recognize it as bullying (as cited in Aylsworth, 2009).  Most of the time, bullying acts may appear harmless, if reviewed in isolation. However, when victims are viewed as targets, the gravity of this behavior becomes clear, due to the pattern of the bully’s abusive behavior towards one’s targets.

Those who experience bullying are usually determined by the exhibition of negative stress.  Since the bullying climate involves threat, coercion and fear, stress from bullying diminishes the individual’s quality of life and may harm his mental and physical health (Field 2005; Pawlik-Kienlen, 2007).  It can result in sleeplessness, fatigue, stress and trauma.  In fact, it can have a toll on different aspects of a person’s life.

For example, the physical symptoms of being bullied can cause a weakened immune system, high blood pressure, migraine and hormonal problems, as well as irritable bowel syndrome.  Psychological effects of bullying can result in panic attacks, suicidal thoughts, forgetfulness, poor concentration and insecurity (Field, 2005).

Behavioral effects include irritability, angry outbursts, hyper vigilance, mood swings, withdrawal, indecision, loss of sense of humor and the like.  It can also result in decreased self-confidence and self-esteem (Field, 2005).   These symptoms and effects can be related to decreased performance in the school.  If the person is not found to be well in terms of physical, psychological, behavioral and emotional aspects, the student is bound to produce low quality work.

Effects on the School

A misconception that school bullying is limited to an internal issue does exist.  However, a deeper investigation reflects how school bullying affects the overall well being of the school.  Kohut (2008) reports that costs related to bullying include a number of obvious and hidden costs to the school’s overall school and economics. These costs go beyond the internal issues of the schools and depict a concern in society in general.

The bully must be viewed as a source of conflict in the school.  There is nothing productive that can be related to school bully’s behavior. Glendinning (2001) asserts that the bully is the “destroyer of self-esteem of those unlucky enough to serve under him or her.”  He reports that bullying stifles creativity and robs the school of its creative juices.  This type of damage can be the means of the success or failure of a school.

Glendinning (2001) stresses that a bully discourages openness, innovation, change, and risk taking and fosters a culture of guardedness, covering of oneself, closed-ness and fear. This environment spreads despair, depression, and hopelessness, which manifest in inferior work.

Since bullying is widely unnoticed, there is usually no specific initiatives geared toward addressing this problem.  Through lack of effective programs, schools are affected by the destructive effects of school bullying.

Rutherford and Rissel (2004) note that when the school does not initiate a broad, assertive attack against bullying, the neutral stance works to sabotage a positive school environment. Even though a single person may be the only target of bullying, the bully ultimately adversely affects others in the school.

As repeated episodes of the perpetrators actions may place the targeted individual at risk for emotional distress, health problems and difficulty in performing his/her job, those with responsibilities related to or dependent upon the targeted individual may have to perform additional work, which increases economical costs. Therefore, targeted student’s stress and anxiety evolving from bullying behavior in the school, negatively impacts the student and adversely affect the health of the school.

Because few schools know how to effectively address and counter school bullying conflicts, the situations may lead to targeted students leaving the school. Many victims choose to leave the environment, wherein they do not feel safe. Thus, students can dropout of school, putting their futures at stake.  Moreover, the psychological impact of the bullying can be too much to handle in many cases.

When a student leaves a school because of a school bully, this may not solve the bullying problem in the school. As the bully remains in the school, he/she will likely choose another target. As a result, the negative behavior may continue and also continues to contribute to the demise of another student’s morale and job satisfaction. Hence, the cycle continues and the school continues to pay for its bully.

Copyright Robert Mijas 2011. This is an extract from Influence of Parenting Styles and Bullying Experiences on a Child’s Mental Health

References

Aylsworth, J. (2009). Sociopaths and bullying in the workplace. Examiner.com

Field, T. (2005). Those who can, do. Those who can’t, bully. Bully Online. Retrieved from, http://bullyonline.org/workbully/index.htm

Glendinning, P. (2001). Workplace bullying: Curing the cancer of the American workplace. Public Personnel Management, 30(3), 269-286.

Kohut, M. (2008). Understanding, controlling, and bullies and bullying at work. FL: Atlantic Publishing company.

Parker-Pope, T. (2008). When the bully sits in the next cubicle. New York Times, D5.

Pawlik-Kienlen, L. (2008). School bullying is learned at home. Suite101.com.

Rutherford, A. & Rissel, C. (2004). A survey of workplace bullying in a health sector organisation. Australian Health Review. Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association.

Scarpaci, R. (2006) Bullying effective strategies for its prevention. Kappa Delta Pi Record (42)4, 170.

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