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How Bullying Affects Children

Nearly one in five students in an average classroom is experiencing bullying in some way. The rest of the students, called bystanders, are also affected by the bullying.1

The Bullying Circle

The Olweus Bullying Prevention Program describes students involved or witnessing a bullying situation as having roles in the Bullying Circle 2:

 Olweus Bullying Circle/public/image/olweus_bullying_circle

1 C. Salmivalli, K. Lagerspetz, K. Björkqvist, K. Osterman, and A. Kaukiainen, "Bullying as a Group Process: Participant Roles and Their Relations to Social Status within the Group," Aggressive Behavior 22 (1996): 1-15.

2 Dan Olweus, "Peer Harassment: A Critical Analysis and Some Important Issues," in Peer Harassment in School, ed. J. Juvonen and S. Graham (New York: Guilford Publications, 2001): 3-20.

The Impact of Bullying

A single student who bullies can have a wide-ranging impact on the students they bully, students who observe bullying, and the overall climate of the school and community.

Students Who are Bullied

Students deserve to feel safe at school. But when they experience bullying, these types of effects can last long into their future:

  • Depression
  • Low self-esteem
  • Health problems
  • Poor grades
  • Suicidal thoughts

Observers of Bullying

Students who see bullying happen also may feel that they are in an unsafe environment. Effects may include feeling:

  • Fearful
  • Powerless to act
  • Guilty for not acting
  • Tempted to participate
Students Who Bully Others

Students who intentionally bully others should be held accountable for their actions. Those who bully their peers are also more likely than those students who do not bully others to *:

  • Get into frequent fights
  • Steal and vandalize property
  • Drink alcohol and smoke
  • Report poor grades
  • Perceive a negative climate at school
  • Carry a weapon
Schools with Bullying Issues

When bullying continues and a school does not take action, the entire school climate can be affected in the following ways:

  • The school develops an environment of fear and disrespect
  • Students have difficulty learning
  • Students feel insecure
  • Students dislike school
  • Students perceive that teachers and staff have little control and don't care about them

* Not all students who bully others have obvious behavior problems or are engaged in rule-breaking activities, however. Some of them are highly skilled socially and good at ingratiating themselves with their teacher and other adults. This is true of some boys who bully but is perhaps even more common among bullying girls. For this reason it is often difficult for adults to discover or even imagine that these students engage in bullying behavior.

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