Bullies and Victims: Information for Parents - TeachersAndFamilies

Bullies and Victims
Information for Parents
By Kari A. Sassu, MSEd, Mahri J. Elinoff, MA,
Melissa A. Bray, PhD, NCSP, & Thomas J. Kehle, PhD
University of Connecticut


Signs of Victimization


Most parents assume that children generally get along with one another. Yet the prevalence of bullying - persistent physical or psychological intimidation of one child by another - is more prevalent than most parents realize.

It is unlikely that any school is completely free from all bullying behavior. The prevalence of bullying is staggering. Estimates of the prevalence of bullying have ranged from a reported 10% of children who were said to have been the victims of severe acts of bullying to 75% of children who reported being bullied at least once during the academic year. Researchers have concluded from these statistics that at least 25% of all children will be affected by bullying at some point during their school years, and many of these children miss significant numbers of school days each year owing to fear of being bullied.

Bullying: Basic Facts
Bullying occurs when a student is repeatedly harmed, psychologically and/or physically, by another student or a group of students. Bullies are typically physically, psychologically, or socially stronger than the children they bully. Bullying may present itself in different forms, including, but not limited to, physical assaults or aggressions, verbal and/or physical threats, intentional exclusion from a group, spreading rumors, menacing gestures or faces, or repeated name calling.

Both boys and girls engage in bullying behavior, but some differences are evident. Boys, for example, typically engage in direct, overt bullying behaviors, including physical assaults or verbal taunts and threats. Girls often use more indirect, discrete means to bully others, such as intentionally leaving someone out of activities or spreading rumors.

One common misconception is that bullying is an unavoidable part of childhood and adolescence. For this reason, parents and schools may ignore or minimize bullying behaviors. Teachers and parents may not recognize certain behaviors as "bullying." However, there may be serious consequences to dismissing such detrimental behaviors as commonplace. Chronic victims of bullying report physical and mental health problems, may develop depression or low self-esteem, may bring weapons to school, and may contemplate suicide more often than their non-bullied peers. Bullying can create a climate of fear and anxiety, not only for the direct victims, but for the bystanders as well. This negative climate may limit students' opportunity for a safe, healthy learning environment.

The future for bullies is also troubling. Along with a higher likelihood of underachievement in academic settings, bullies are more likely to become abusive spouses or parents and to engage in criminal activities as adults.

Bullying is a significant problem that affects many children and deserves the attention of both educators and parents. Prevention is the best strategy to address the problem of bullying. School personnel can do their part by imposing strict policies against bullying and implementing school-wide prevention programs. However, if parents suspect or learn of bullying behavior, then there are several things they can do to intervene.




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Kari A. Sassu, MSEd, and Mahri J. Elinoff, MA, are doctoral candidates in school psychology at the University of Connecticut; Melissa A. Bray, PhD, NCSP, is Associate Professor in School Psychology at the University of Connecticut, a licensed psychologist, and a licensed speech-language pathologist. Thomas J. Kehle, PhD, is Professor and Director of the School Psychology program at the University of Connecticut and a licensed psychologist. This article is provided by the National Association of School Psychologists from its 2004 publication, Helping Children at Home and School II: Handouts for Families and Educators.
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