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The Effects Bullying Can Have on Children


Bullying affects everyone, including the victim, those who bully, and the ones who witness. It is associated with many negative physical, psychological, and academic outcomes. Bullied children can experience negative mental health issues in school and at home. The bullies, on the other hand, can turn out to be violent people during adulthood, engage in alcohol and substance abuse, and engage in criminal activities later in life and beyond. Bystanders, too, are likely to experience depression and mental health issues after witnessing their colleagues being bullied. As Conners‐Burrow et al. (2009) pointed out, parents and other adults working with children need to understand that bullying has detrimental effects on everyone involved. Given that bullying is a major issue affecting many aspects of children at home and in school, understanding its effects helps parents and teachers to know the measures to be put in place to fight against it.

Bullying in school

In the school setting, bullying affects the academic performance of children in terms of both standardized test scores and the overall grades. Children as young as those in kindergarten and young adolescents in high school are reported to be victims of bullying. Besides performing poorly, victims show behaviors such as insecurity when in public, missing school for no apparent reason, and keeping away from friends (Zequinão et al. 2071). The bystanders often do not intervene even if they support the bully or the victim. However, the witnesses experience feelings of insecurity and anxiety due to fears of retaliation. Similarly, children who bullied others and have been bullied at some point show intensified aggression and are at a higher risk of attempting suicide.

Educators have the responsibility of creating an environment that prevents bullying and taking necessary interventions that stop the behavior. At an early stage, children should be taught to appreciate their identities and that of others. Studies show that encouraging students to stand against bullying and to report when they come across the behavior reduces cases of bullying tremendously. According to Espelage & Swearer (2004), teachers should also monitor behaviors that signal signs of bullying at an early stage, including name-calling, back turning, and stalking in order to put in place measures to prevent the likelihood of them developing into bullying.

Bullying at Home

Most parents believe that bullying only occurs at school, but this assumption is far from the truth. Children may be bullied at home by their siblings, parents, and other members of the family even before joining the school. Parenting styles play an important role in shaping the behavior of children and building their ability to cope and adopt (Lereya, Samara & Wolke, 2013). Part of the reason why bullying at home may be devastating for the victim is that it is done by people whom they trust and love most. It can even have far-reaching effects when children discover that their siblings or their parents bullied them at some point. It has long-lasting effects on the victim’s overall health. Bullying at home severely destroys a child’s ability to build healthy relationships as it becomes difficult for them to trust people beyond their family. It also creates divisions in the family as love and trust for each other fades away.

Mitigating the effects of bullying at home requires the victim to have an honest and open dialogue with the member of the family bullying them and letting them know how you feel about it. It may be difficult to confront your parents if they are the ones who bullied you, but telling them how it is adversely affecting you makes things better. Besides, children should be taught to view their family members as their immediate and trusted friends with whom they should frankly discuss any personal issues (Conners‐Burrow et al. 2010). Consequently, parents should work hard towards building a close relationship with children that supports an honest conversation, even when the topic is difficult to discuss.

Physical and Psychological Effects of Bullying

The physical effects associated with bullying include physical injuries from the attack. Similarly, prolonged trauma after bullying often results in physical problems later in life. Victims of bullying can experience sleeping difficulties, headaches, and chronic pain (Bowes et al. 2010). Bullying has also been reported to stimulate the release of cortisol hormone that is normally released after experiencing a stressful event. Bullying also damages the immune system and the normal functioning of the brain, causing the victims to behave in a strange manner. The psychological effects of bullying are immense, including low self-esteem, depression, alcohol and substance abuse for adolescents, and engaging in violence. Whereas bullying automatically leads to mental health issues for the victims, children who already had mental health problems are at a higher risk of being bullied more. Cyberbullying, which occurs over the internet, is common in children who use computers and mobile devices connected to the internet. Victims of cyberbullying are more likely to have depression and to show hostility compared to those who have never been cyberbullied (Bowes et al).


Given the negative effects of bullying, quick and early interventions are the best methods to deal with bullying. If it is not mitigated, bullying can become a serious problem for everyone affected. Thus, bullying in school, at home, or anywhere can be prohibited if it is detected and stopped at the right time. Parents, teachers, caregivers, and society at large should do everything within their means to fight against bullying.


Bowes, L., Maughan, B., Caspi, A., Moffitt, T. E., & Arseneault, L. (2010). Families promote emotional and behavioural resilience to bullying: evidence of an environmental effect. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry51(7), 809-817.

Conners‐Burrow, N. A., Johnson, D. L., Whiteside‐Mansell, L., McKelvey, L., & Gargus, R. A. (2009). Adults matter: Protecting children from the negative impacts of bullying. Psychology in the Schools46(7), 593-604.

Espelage, D. L., & Swearer, S. M. (Eds.). (2004). bullying in American schools: A social-ecological perspective on prevention and intervention. routledge.

Lereya, S. T., Samara, M., & Wolke, D. (2013). Parenting behavior and the risk of becoming a victim and a bully/victim: A meta-analysis study. Child abuse & neglect37(12), 1091-1108.

Zequinão, M. A., Cardoso, A. A., da Silva, J. L., de Medeiros, P., Silva, M. A. L., Pereira, B., & Cardoso, F. L. (2017). Academic performance and bullying in socially vulnerable students. Journal of Human Growth and Development27(1), 19-27.


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