In The Know Zone

bullying effects

The High Cost of Bullying

The negative impact of being bullied is significant. Victims come to view school as an unhappy and unsafe place. Seven percent of American 8th graders stay home from school at least once a month because of bullying. The already great likelihood of social isolation is compounded by the concerns of peers that they will lose social status by associating with the victim, or risk becoming victims themselves. In the long run, chronic victims of bullying can suffer depression and low self-esteem that persists into adulthood. [20]

Pure victims and bully victims suffer about equally under their oppressors. A recent British study of 1,600 grade-school children found that victims and bully/victims were at an increased risk of coughs, colds, aches, pains, nausea and psychosomatic problems like nightmares and bed-wetting. Their parents also reported they were more likely to fake illnesses to avoid going to school. Pure bullies, by comparison, proved healthier and mentally stronger than those they harass, suggesting, in the words of the study, that bullies “have a constitution that allows them to be dominant in inappropriate ways.” [21]

Bullying victims may derive some bitter satisfaction from learning that the long-term psychological harm they suffer from the experience will be more than matched by the negative trajectory likely to mark the life of their tormentors. The seminal studies of bullying conducted in Norway in the 1990s found that 60 percent of boys identified as bullies in grades 6-9 had at least one criminal conviction by age 24, and 40 percent had three or more convictions. [22]

The pain of physical violence—even the psychological scars it leaves—may be far less than that inflicted by relational or indirect aggression in the age of the Internet, e-mail, instant messaging and blogs. Gossiping, shunning and slander, the weapons of the relational aggressor, have been rendered immensely more hurtful by the ability of relational bullies to access these virtually universal forms of communication. The cruel remark formerly whispered in a hallway can now be broadcast anonymously to the entire school or community almost instantly.

Clearly, the widely held view among adults that bullying is merely an unpleasant but normal aspect of childhood, or even a “rite of passage,” is unwarranted. It is not “normal” to be the chronic victim of aggression, nor is it “normal” to persecute the weak and isolated. Both events are common enough is society, but they remain, deplorable in the first instance and reprehensible, if not criminal, in the second.

The antisocial character of bullying is even acknowledged, to a degree, by the bully himself, in his enlistment of others as active or passive participants in the behavior, and by the aforementioned fact that any intercession on the side of the victim usually ends the bullying almost immediately.

It follows that the first obligation of those observing an instance of bullying—physical or relational—is to refuse to participate. To laugh at the predicament of someone being harassed by a bully, or to take part in the slandering of a peer amounts to condoning the behavior.


[20] Banks, R., Bullying in Schools. ERIC Digest; 1997, ERIC Identifier: ED407154; available at; accessed 18 August 2004.

[21] Wolke, D (1999) Physical and Relational Bullying in Young Children: Distinguishing Features .ESRC End of Award Report Summary. Economic and Social Research Council, Great Britain, quoted in Graham, S., Playground Bullies are Healthier in Body and Mind Than Their Victims, Scientific American News Release, 22 August 2004; available at; accessed 22 August 2004

[22] Olweus, D., Bullying at School: What We Know and What We Can Do; Cambridge, MA: Blackwell. ED 384 437. 1993; cited in Bullying in Schools. ERIC Digest;



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