Education Vital Signs: Bullying

It’s a sad truth for schools: where there are large numbers of students, there are power differences. And where there are differences in power, there is the potential for bullying. But how prevalent this behavior becomes -- or whether it is allowed to occur at all -- depends on the awareness and resolve of board members who set anti-bullying policies; principals, who administer those policies; teachers who pay attention to the social dynamics of their students; and any other adult who comes in contact with young people. Bullying has always been around, but technology has added a new dimension to the problem. Hateful words and videos can be posted. Harmful gossip can be easily distributed. Of particular concern is the impact of bullying directed against LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) students, reports of which are on the rise. 

As with so many serious problems, accountability starts at the top -- with board members and administrators who take bullying seriously and work to provide safe environments for all students.

Kids and sharing
Results of a study published in PLOS ONE, “I Should but I Won’t: Why Young Children Endorse Norms of Fair Sharing but Do Not Follow Them,” finds that children’s sharing becomes increasingly consistent with the norm of sharing as they develop. While 3-year-olds in the study acknowledged the norm of equal sharing, and even optimistically expected that other children in the cohort would give them more than an equal share of their scratch-and-sniff stickers, they focused on their own desires and were unwilling to equally share their own stickers, a fact that they would correctly predict when asked. Eight-year-olds, however, not only acknowledged the norm of equal sharing but demonstrated it, equally sharing their stickers with others, most frequently citing fairness as their motive.
February 2013

Lasting effects of bullying
Results of a study published in JAMA Psychiatry, “Adult Psychiatric Outcomes of Bullying and Being Bullied by Peers in Childhood and Adolescence,” finds that the negative psychological consequences of bullying last into adulthood. Five percent of the cohort were bullies as children, 21 percent were victims, and 4.5 percent were sometimes bullies, sometimes the bullied. Victims were at greater risk for depressive and anxiety disorders, panic disorder, generalized anxiety, and agoraphobia as adults. Bullies were at increased risk for anti-social personality disorder. But most disordered were those who were both perpetrators and victims. They suffered most severely from suicidal thoughts (25 percent), depressive disorders, panic disorder (38 percent), and generalized anxiety.
February 2013

Food allergies and bullying
A report of a study appearing in Pediatrics found that almost 32 percent of the food-allergic children in the study reported being bullied. Often, bullies threatened children with the food to which they are allergic. The study, “Child and Parental Reports of Bullying in a Consecutive Sample of Children with Food Allergy,” said that, while 25 percent of the children’s parents reported their children were bullied, half of all bullying incidents remain unknown to parents. An allergic child’s quality of life increases when parents are aware of bullying.
December 2012

Recess combats bullying
New research indicates that a healthy recess is essential to students’ academic achievement. A study from Mathematica Policy Research and Stanford University, "Findings from a Randomized Experiment of Playworks: Selected Results from Cohort 1," finds that because recess and organized play improve students’ behavior and ability to focus on learning, time spent in recess actually provides more time for teaching and learning, and that positive and healthy interactions during recess can reduce incidents of bullying and exclusionary behavior.
April 2012

Status Struggles
Status Struggles, a survey of North Carolina eighth-, ninth-, and tenth-graders, finds that it is popular students—not social outcasts—who tend to be most aggressive towards other students. Students in the top 98th percentile of their school’s social hierarchy have an aggression rate 28 percent higher than students at the bottom of the hierarchy, and 40 percent higher than students at the very top of the hierarchy. Students in the top two percent of their hierarchy and those at the very bottom were the least aggressive.
February 2011

New Technology and Youth Violence
Research published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that 9 percent to 35 percent of young people report being victims of electronic aggression. Some occurrences of this type of violence happen while students are at school, or more frequently, during out of school hours.
August 2008