Home Family/Parenting The Effects of Bullying on Children’s Health and Academic Achievement ~ Guest Post by Amanda Warren

The Effects of Bullying on Children’s Health and Academic Achievement ~ Guest Post by Amanda Warren

by Susan Pazera


Effects of Bullying on Children’s Health

Picture This…

A young girl in middle school, afraid to go to school. Because she knows, like every other day, she would feel all alone. Alone because those she thought friends teased her and called her fat, ugly and stupid. Alone because no teacher or counselor protected her from being strangled, punched or pushed around. And alone because she was one of the few students failing most of her classes. She walked home from the bus at the end of the day with tears in her eyes. Because she knew she would have to live it all over again the next day.

As much as I would like to say this is just the beginning to a fictional story, it’s not. This is reality….this was MY reality. The bullying I endured for years is something no child, or adult, should have to be exposed to. Unfortunately, however, thousands of children around the world are being bullied, both in and outside of school; 160,000 stay home each day in fear. Students involved in a bullying incident can be affected in many ways leading to health related problems and declining academic achievement. At this point, some things you may be wondering are, “How can I tell if my child is being bullied?” and “What can I do to help my child.” Before we talk about warning signs and prevention/ response, let’s first take a look at who is involved in a bullying situation, and how they are affected.

Who is Involved?

In any bullying situation, whether physical, emotional, social, verbal, sexual or even cyberbullying, there are three groups involved. There are bullies, victims, and bystanders. Bullies are those who are either aggressively or passively causing harm to another individual. Victims are the individuals being bullied and can either internalize the abuse and be more passive, or externalize it and have an aggressive response to the abuse (sometimes leading them to be a bully themselves). Bystanders are the individuals that witness the incident. They can either be defenders and take the side of the victim, they can be onlookers and not take either side, or they can be follower/supporters and take the side of the bully, sometimes becoming one themselves. Although not directly involved, bullying affects bystanders, as well.

What are the Effects of Bullying on Children’s Health?

Studies, such as one done by Marcel F. van der Wal, Cees A. M. de Wit and Remy A. Hirasing in 2003, showed that there is a direct relation between bullying and symptoms of depression and suicidal ideations. This study, in particular, found that boys and girls that were bullied, both directly and indirectly, were more likely to show signs of depression and suicidal thoughts than those who did not report being bullied. On top of this, Victims also experience symptoms of stress, such as headaches and stomachaches, and anxiety. However, victims are not the only ones whose health is affected.

Bullying incidents also affect bullies and bystanders. According to StopBullying.gov, bullies are more likely to engage in drug and alcohol abuse and early sexual activity. All of which open doors to many other health risks and problems. Sometimes, bullies adopt these symptoms and behaviors because they are externalizing abuse they are getting at school or at home. Like bullies, bystanders are also more likely to engage in substance abuse. However, they are more susceptible to depression, anxiety, fear, and other mental issues like the victim. They may also experience feelings of guilt, which can also have an impact on their health and academics.


How Does it Affect Their Academics?

Much like a child’s health, their academic achievement starts declining after being subjected to a bullying incident as well. Victims tend to have declining grades and test scores. Victims also have more difficulty achieving benchmarks year to year. This could be because of lack of concentration and/or participation due to fear or anxiety. These two factors could also cause them to skip school or drop out altogether. Bystanders may also choose to skip school in order to avoid being a witness to bullying.

What Are the Warning Signs?

Warning signs are very important to pay attention to if your child is part of a bullying situation. Whether they are a victim or a bully, children develop different behaviors that are unusual for them to be expressing. Like I said previously, a victim may be bringing home report cards with lower grades than they usually receive or get more phone calls home to the parents about lack of participation in class. Aside from the showing symptoms of stress, low self-esteem or depression, victims may also have a lack of appetite and sleep. Look for other external signs of bullying, such as torn clothing, bruises or other injuries, missing or  or damaged possessions.

If your child is displaying more aggressive or angry behaviors, these are signs that they could be a bully themselves. Bullies also tend to demonstrate a need for dominance and express a positive attitude toward violent behaviors. If you get a call home from the school saying that your child started a fight with another student, this could be a sign that your child is a bully. Although there is not much research to show that being a bully can affect academic achievement, the health risks listed above could potentially cause these individuals to have declining grades and lower test scores.

What Can I Do About Effects of Bullying on Children’s Health?

There are many things you can do as a parent, or other member of the community, to prevent and intervene in a bullying situation. First and foremost, it is crucial to make your child aware that you support them. Take an interest in their academics and well being. In another study conducted by Catherine Rothon, Jenny Head, Emily Klineberg and Stephen Stansfield in 2011 showed that higher levels of family social support had a buffering effect on the negative impacts of bullying on children. However, family support alone is not enough. Children also require strong social support from their peers, teachers and other members of the community. Anti-Bullying Programs in schools also play a major role in preventing and responding to bullying.

Step In

If you suspect that your child is being bullied, or being a bully, it is also beneficial to work closely with their teachers to ensure that there is plenty of supervision and that each incident and report is being taken seriously. Bullying tends to occur more often when and where there is less adult supervision. This includes as the playground, hallways, lunchroom and especially online. With the help of educators teaching children about respecting each other, you can also teach them how to react to a bullying incident by immediately seeking help from an adult.

When students feel safe in their environment, they are more engaged in their education and learning experiences. By taking action to prevent bullying and having a proper response to an incident, every member of the community can have a positive impact. Some important steps to remember, as an adult, when faced with a bullying situation are to first stop the bullying on the spot. Diffuse situations immediately, preventing repeat episodes. Model calm and respectful behavior and ensure separation and safety before proceeding.

Get Details

Second, find out exactly what happened (from everyone involved including victims, bullies and bystanders) and assess the bullying situation and proceed. Next, as stated earlier, be sure that all children involved in a bullying situation feel supported. Even though you may have a negative view of the bully, they may be going through a lot in their lives that could be contributing to this behavior, so placing blame is not the answer. Also, sometimes victims may think that the bullying is their fault. Reassure them they don’t deserve this treatment. Provide consistent support since bullying situations happen repeatedly. As a parent, this is where it is very beneficial for you to work closely with teachers and counselors.

Speak Up

Finally, speak up! Be more than just a bystander. If your child sees a bullying incident, it is important for them to know how to intervene in a way that is not putting them in harm’s way. Bystanders can intervene by immediately seeking help from an adult, not giving the bully a supportive audience, and helping the victim to get away. To do this safely, children can create a distraction by telling the victim that a teacher needs to see them or that their game starts in a few minutes, only if they feel safe to do so.

One out of every three students reports being the victim of bullying, with 79% of them occurring in school. If we can all work together to educate students and the community about bullying and its effects on children, we can make a drastic change in the lives of thousands. No child needs to feel alone.

For more information and useful tips and tools, please visit StopBullying.gov and take a stand!


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Ana De- Jesus October 18, 2015 - 7:54 am

As someone who was bullied throughout my life I completely identify with everything you had written and I am sorry to hear that you have been through so much. You are right that bullies often externalize what is happening at home and I can’t help but feel sorry for them, that their only way of coping is to make others feel bad about themselves.

K. Lee Banks October 17, 2015 - 3:23 pm

I’m sorry you endured bullying, but thank you for speaking up now to help others! It is sad that so many kids bully other kids, with no thought or conscience about how it may affect them – even when the bullying ends in suicide of the bullied child!

Mardene Carr October 16, 2015 - 1:29 pm

This starts in the home….educating our children at home and letting them know it is not okay.Unfortunately when you check it out many of the bullies have parents who are bullies so they do not know any better

Dhemz Apdian - Dias October 16, 2015 - 12:11 pm

Very informative and such a great awareness to share. Thanks for sharing! Bullying can lead to a negative impact.

Shaylee @ Data Nerds October 15, 2015 - 12:41 pm

This is a great article. I think it’s very important to teach children how to react to bullies to limit how damaging their comments or actions can be.

Avry October 15, 2015 - 10:59 am

I am sorry for the bullying that you endured. I am so glad that you became strong and owning your voice in your own personal story. Bullying IS out there and it is sad because no one should have to endure it. My daughter was bullied for quite a while until she punched the girl in the face. I hate to promote any type of violence but she had reached her limit. The bullying stopped after that. I hated that it came to that but the teachers etc. were not doing anything about it. I supported her actions when called into the principles office because I had called multiple times and nothing was done to stop it before that.

Amanda Warren October 15, 2015 - 12:08 pm

Thank you so much. That is awful that she was bullied to her breaking point. Some children don’t know how to react to situations like that. Some sit back and let it happen as passive victims, others known as provocative victims can react more with violence and could be bullies themselves. That is why it is so important to teach them proper strategies to use when and if they find themselves in a situation like this.

Claudette October 15, 2015 - 10:52 am

This is such an important topic! Thank you so much for raising awareness!

Amanda Warren October 15, 2015 - 12:05 pm

Thank you so much for reading!

Rosey October 15, 2015 - 9:14 am

We went through it for a brief period of time with my daughter who defended someone getting picked on (and then she got picked on by that bully that she stood up to the rest of the school year). It was not fun.

Crystal October 15, 2015 - 7:39 am

I was bullied also. My girls stand up for themselves. It’s such a hard age to go through.

Janeane Davis October 15, 2015 - 7:10 am

Bullying is a seious problem. Too often it is not taken seriously. That needs to change.

Liz Mays October 15, 2015 - 6:59 am

Bullying is practically an epidemic, and it’s so frustrating that it’s as widespread as it is! It can’t be discussed enough!

Elizabeth O. October 15, 2015 - 4:41 am

It all starts at home. So it’s important for parents like us to make our kids understanding what happens when someone is being bullied. Also, if there are signs that our kids are being bullied, we should also inform the school. Otherwise, it might be too late.

Chanelle October 15, 2015 - 3:43 am

We need to teach about compassion and acceptance. Great post to get the conversation started.

Amanda Warren October 15, 2015 - 12:04 pm

Thank you for taking the time to read this!

Mykidsguide October 15, 2015 - 2:07 am

Sad, but this happens a lot. My nephew was bullied when he was still in preschool. Yes, preschool. They were just a bunch of 4 and 5 year olds and they already know how to bully other kids. It was a good thing that we knew about this right after and the teacher had a meeting with the parents of the bullies.

Amanda Warren October 15, 2015 - 12:03 pm

It is shocking to think that it starts at that early of an age, but it happens all the time. I always hear young children saying things like, “You aren’t my friend” with the intent of being mean to the other child. It may not seem that bad to some, but this is how bullying starts at this early stage and it still needs to be addressed and resolved.

Rania October 15, 2015 - 12:09 am

i recall being bullied at school for being different and I recall a friend who was being bullied and everyone stayed away from her except me..I never understood why but I always felt a need to protect her even though at the time I didn’t know how to respond to the situation. While bullying still occurs today, we are much more aware and take better action, unfortunately sometimes it’s too late.

Amanda October 14, 2015 - 11:16 pm

Bullying is such a sad, yet huge problem. It definitely effects so many aspects of bullied kids lives!

Dana October 14, 2015 - 10:29 pm

As a mom of a child who was severely bullied I just am taken back by all things that Happen – today’s world is mean and unforgiving

Jennifer Clay October 14, 2015 - 9:24 pm

When my daughter was getting bullied two years ago it really affected her. She was so depressed and scared. It was a tough time and it broke my heart and still does that she had to go through something like this. She was 8 when it happened.

Amanda Warren October 15, 2015 - 12:00 pm

It is terrifying to go to school wondering what sort of abuse you would be subjected to that day. No child should have to feel that way!

Liz Mays October 14, 2015 - 8:47 pm

It’s really upsetting that so many kids are dealing with these feelings. I can definitely see how it affects their grades and attendance.

Tonya C October 14, 2015 - 8:09 pm

Bullying is just awful! I make sure my kids understand to be kind and to always be mindful how they treat others.

Mama to 5 BLessings October 14, 2015 - 8:08 pm

This is so sad. Kids can be so brutal! This is one of the reasons why I homeschool, kids should never be treated this way.

Lexie Lane October 14, 2015 - 8:05 pm

Bully is a big issue, yes I agree we need to teach our kids to react in bullies.

Tamara October 14, 2015 - 7:58 pm

It’s really important to have these discussions. My daughter is in first grade, and it starts SO young. And the effects last for life.

Joely Smith October 14, 2015 - 7:24 pm

You would think by now that bullying would have been stopped entirely. I was bullied horribly from Jr High all through high school and was the primary reason I dropped out and got my GED.

Ayesha October 14, 2015 - 2:45 pm

Parents should be aware of their child’s daily activities and make sure to communicate well so that they can prevent this and can solve problems immediately.

It is hard for the children to go to school worrying of something and not enjoying. They deserve to be happy and loved.

Amanda Warren October 15, 2015 - 11:58 am

That is exactly right. Communication is key!

tara pittman October 14, 2015 - 2:23 pm

We need to teach our kids about how to react to bullies. Education is best.

Lynlee October 14, 2015 - 12:56 pm

What an amazing and poignant article. Thank you so much for sharing and especially for the warning signs and how to help.

Amanda Warren October 15, 2015 - 11:57 am

Thank you so much! The more awareness is spread, the better we are able to educate and protect our children. I appreciate you taking the time to read it!

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