The article has been automatically translated into English by Google Translate from Russian and has not been edited.

Bulling: how to protect yourself from aggressive children in American schools

Elizaveta Lubleva

Doctor of Psychology


As a practicing psychologist, in the field of providing psychological and social assistance to Russian-speaking immigrants in the US, I often get asked about bullying in schools. Are there any official programs and how it works.

Фото: Depositphotos

From the experience of my children, I can say with confidence that the programs in schools are quite successful. In general, things are as follows.

Bullying is a hallmark of harming and humiliating others, especially those who are smaller, weaker, younger, or more vulnerable in some way. It's a solid behavior style, in large part because bullies get what they want - at least in the beginning. They become bullies, not born, and this happens at an early age, if the normal aggression of 2-year-olds is encouraged / ignored and does not flow into a constructive form.

What should you pay attention to when communicating with your child?

Short-term and long-term consequences of bullying:

Consequences for the victim may include:

  • Social isolation
  • Feelings of shame
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Low self-esteem
  • School evasion
  • Anxiety symptoms
  • Dirty clothes
  • Psychosomatic symptoms (abdominal pain, headaches, muscle aches, other physical complaints for no apparent medical reasons)
  • Poor school performance
  • Symptoms of depression.

Although it may be difficult to empathize with a bully, it is important that parents and school administrators recognize that the aggressive behavior of a student (or group) entails bullying, which potentially increases with time.

Short-term consequences of bullying for bullies:

  • Poor school performance
  • Increased risk of absenteeism
  • The difficulty of maintaining social relationships
  • Increased risk of substance abuse.

All groups involved in bullying during adolescence, both hooligans and victims, have adverse effects on mental health in adulthood. While the victims showed high levels of depressive symptoms in adulthood, both groups experienced an increased risk of psychiatric hospitalization due to mental health disorders.

Long-term risks for the victim:

  • Chronic depression
  • Increased risk of suicidal thoughts, suicide plans and suicide attempts
  • Anxiety Disorders
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Poor overall health
  • Self-destructive behavior, including self-harm
  • Alcohol or drug abuse
  • The difficulty of establishing a relationship of trust.

Long-term consequences for bullies:

  • Risk of marital or child abuse
  • Risk of antisocial behavior
  • Alcohol or drug abuse
  • Less likely to get an education or work.
Фото: Depositphotos

Why children do not ask for help?

Statistics from 2012 of the year show that the adult was notified in less than half (40%) of bullying cases. Children do not speak to adults for many reasons:

- Bullying can make a child feel helpless. Children may want to cope with it on their own to feel in control again. They may fear being perceived as weak.

- Children may be afraid of a reaction from a child who bullied them.

“Bullying is humiliating. Children may not want adults to know what is being said about them, true or false. They may also fear that adults will judge or punish them for weakness.

- Children who are bullied may feel socially isolated. They may feel that no one cares or can understand them.

- Children may be afraid of being rejected by their peers. Friends can help protect children from bullying, and children can fear losing that support.

Many studies show that bullies have no social behavior, they are not worried and do not understand the feelings of others. They usually see themselves in society quite positively. However, those who constantly intimidate others experience tense relations with their parents and peers. This also includes online bullying. The Internet provides constant access to its mining, and acts of aggression can often be performed anonymously.

Often children have no experience that leads to the development of social skills, and free play with peers does not develop in the modern world.

Currently, in the US, psychologists and social workers are making great efforts to introduce effective prevention programs and timely intervention in schools in the processes of manifestation of any acts of aggression between children.

Psychologist Dorothy Espelag (Wisconsin) has created effective prevention and intervention programs in the aggressive behavior of children towards each other, which are already implemented in many school systems throughout the country, including after Columbine and other similar incidents.

New studies by the US Department of Education on 37 schools, which took place shooting, including Columbine, showed that almost three-quarters of student shooters felt that they were constantly being bullied, threatened, attacked. In fact, several such students reported experiencing long-term and brutal harassment from their peers.

Conclusions that the educational system has made after the shooting at schools:

- The attacking children were rarely impulsive; they planned their actions.

- More than 80 percent of the time, at least one person in the class knew that the attackers were planning their actions; two or more children knew about it nearly 60 percent of the time.

- You cannot give precise characteristics to the shooters. The attackers were boys, but they varied in age, race, family situation, academic achievement, popularity, and disciplinary history at school.

“Most of the attacking children did not threaten their victims in advance.

- Before the attack on the school, most of the children displayed behaviors that made others anxious, such as trying to get a gun or writing disturbing poems and essays.

School bullying experts say that although it is important to understand the connection between bullying and school shooting, more research is needed on the diversity of school bullying and identifying the conditions that allow it to flourish.

Only the study of “aggressors, and the neglect of the fact that there is a peer group supporting bullying and that there are children in schools playing different roles” will not lead to any result.

Фото: Depositphotos

New and innovative research

Tonya R. Nansel and his colleagues found that:

Bullying and bullying occurs most commonly in grades six through eighth, with little variation between urban, suburban, urban, and rural schools.

- Boys are more likely to be bullies and victims of bullying than girls. Young people are more likely to experience physical bullying, while girls are more likely to be victims of verbal or psychological bullying.

- Aggressors and victims of bullying experience difficulties in adapting to new conditions, both socially and psychologically. It is more difficult for victims of bullying to make friends.

- Bullies are more likely to smoke and drink alcohol.

Susan M. Swyer, PhD, Lead Researcher for the School to Prevent Aggressive Behavior in Children Project in Nebraska, is one of the researchers who closely monitor the victims of bullying. “Previously, students were classified as bullies or victims,” she says. "But children often tell us that a child combines these two qualities."

Another study found that teachers are not always able to identify bullies.

“Unfortunately, adults in the school environment dramatically overestimate their effectiveness in identifying and interfering in a situation of intimidation” (Limber).

Dorothy Espelage (University of Illinois) also conducted research on bullying, the results of which are the opposite of how previous research has determined bullying. Many researchers have been studying this problem for a long time, but the focus in the United States has been on physical aggression. The researchers concluded that bullying is a continuum involving many students at different levels.

In practice, however, some of the students do not want to participate in bullying - to tease, threaten and laugh with their peers, but are also afraid to go against their group and tell the teacher about what is happening.

Programs that work

Many psychologists agree that the development of effective programs for the prevention and intervention in the aggressive behavior of children requires an understanding that individual, family and other factors influence the child’s propensity to bully.

To this end, Dorothy Espelage and her colleagues at K12 Associates in Madison, Wisconsin, conducted a survey in which they continue to study 20 000 public school students, as well as teachers, parents, and school about the prevalence and frequency of bullying. After analyzing the survey data, reports are submitted to individual schools so that they can independently develop prevention and intervention programs based on their own data.

The most effective bullying prevention strategies involve “the whole school as a community, working to change the school's climate and behavior,” she says.

The objectives of programs run by the Office of Health Resources and Services in the US Department of Health and Human Services are to raise public awareness of aggression of all kinds, prevent and reduce bullying, identify and provide appropriate interventions for children aged 9 to 13 and other target audiences. strengthening links between public health and other stakeholders.


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I wish good luck to everyone!

Your consultant in the world of psychology Dr.Liza

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