Bullying and Life Satisfaction Among Middle School Students

The act of bullying is common among young adolescents. As children mature, the rates of aggression and discrimination tend to decrease. The middle school years represent a period during which bullying incidents are at their peak. It is during this time that children have significant psychological developmental gains as well. Therefore, it is critical to examine how bullying behavior affects individuals from various student subgroups in order to assess if certain individuals are at risk for negative outcomes. Peer victimization has been linked to depression, stress, anxiety, low self-esteem, and even suicidal ideation. Despite this, there is little research devoted to understanding the specific ways in which individuals are affected by bullying.

Robert E. Valois of the Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina wanted to explore this issue further. In a recent study, Valois evaluated 1,253 middle school students and analyzed how their victimization affected their life satisfaction. He also looked at what motivated the victimization, such as the participants’ race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, and disability status. He found that white female students who had low life satisfaction also had high rates of absenteeism due to their fear of being bullied. Research has shown that victimization can lead to truancy, which can set in motion a cycle of academic, professional, and financial difficulties.

Religion also appeared to be a factor in victimization for white females. Race was cited as the reason for victimization among white male and female students in predominantly nonwhite schools. This suggests that it is not race itself that predicts victimization, but whether a race is the dominant race in a school. White females also reported higher levels of victimization due to sexual orientation. This was not evidenced in the males or black females.

Valois looked at how children with disabilities perceived victimization and found that their diminished mental health, which included having problems such as anxiety and depression, was part of their disability status and made them more vulnerable. This reduced their sense of life satisfaction. “Although the directionality of the effects is unclear, the findings of this study suggest that victimization may have deleterious effects on the overall life satisfaction of important sub-groups of middle schools students,” Valois said. He encourages educators to consider the negative impact of bullying, including risk taking, illegal substance abuse, and suicidal ideation, on every class of student when implementing anti-bullying strategies.

Valois, Robert F., Jelani C. Kerr, and E. Scott Huebner. Peer victimization and perceived life satisfaction among early adolescents in the United States. American Journal of Health Education (2012): 258+. Health Reference Center Academic. Web. 28 Sep. 2012.

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  • seth


    October 15th, 2012 at 3:29 PM

    I know that some kids have it worse than I did, but I was bullied as a kid but I shook it off and never let it bother me. I guess i was lucky in that it never escalated and became more than what I felt like I could handle, and I know that that is more fortunate than what some kids face. Honestly though, if you have strong parents and teachers around you, this doesn’t have to be the end of the world. You can make it through this, and it doesn’t have to be that wound that you wear for the rest of your life.

  • Des


    October 16th, 2012 at 4:05 AM

    Seth- you are lucky, because most kids have to live with the damage that bullying does to them for the rest of their lives.

    Somehow the things that they have to endure are things that affect the way that they feel about themselves and also the way that they interact with others. It can cause them to harbor negative thoughts and feelings about themselves and could also cause them to feel anxiety and stress, along with depression. So while I am glad that you have been able to move on, please do not belittle the fact that there are more of us who live daily with the negative thoughts and feelings that being bullied caused us.

  • bridget


    October 16th, 2012 at 10:10 AM

    kids are often confused about what is happening to them at that age and do not really report such happening immediately.if they are taught that these acts of bullying are in no way their mistake then maybe they will come forward with the facts.bullying becomes far easier to tackle then!

  • Catherine


    October 16th, 2012 at 11:05 AM

    There is still so much stigma and shame associated with being bullied.

    You may be afraid that people will see you as being weak, unable to take care of yourself and your problems. Who wants to be seen like that?

    So rather than admit that there is a problem, many kids and adults who are being bullied will try to hide the bullying for they a fraid of what someone else will think of them.

  • brent


    October 17th, 2012 at 4:09 AM

    I look back on my own elementary and high school years and I suppose that I have to feel rather fortunate that this was never anything that I personally witnessed or experienced. We were just all being kids and enjoying being with one another. Sure there were people we may or may not be the best of friends with but none of us ever felt the need to hammer on someone just because we didn’t run in the same social circles. Why this has become so much more prevalent today than it once was simply confuses me because I am not sure where all of the anger and misplacement comes form. The hardest thing is that I want to protect my own kids from having to endure this but it often, from the stories you see, seems there is no real reson for why it starts so how do you protect them from something that really can’t be predicted?

  • SArah


    October 18th, 2012 at 4:53 AM

    How sad that things that happen to you when you are young really do set you up for who you are to become as an adult.

    I don’t wish to think that if I am victimized as a child that this means that I have to expect to go through the rest of my life as a victim, but sadly in so many cases I think that this is the reality that they come to know.

    The mean and vicious actions of others have set many up for a lifetime of playing the role of victim and having no real way to get out of that role. They don’t have the skill set that is needed to fight back against this and win, and to know that this has been set upon them due to actions perpetuated against them beginning at such a young age is very disheartening.

  • Sarah


    October 21st, 2012 at 6:47 AM

    I have also been bullied in the past, and yes I have commited sucide and “stick and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me” thats false names do hurt. No matter what we do to stop bulling the bullies wont stop. And im trying to start an organization decated for kids who are being bullied and are scared to tell someone. I support the all kids/teens who are going through the same issue as amanda. Even today im still being bullied because of how I look and what I do. Even though my parents cant see it, I can still help in some way.

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