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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