Bullying Victims Often Suffer Academic Setbacks as a Result

The problem of bullying in elementary, middle school, and high school settings—whether during the school day, after school, or online—is gaining increasing attention. And the more we learn about it, the more serious the problem seems. Many past studies have documented that victims of bullying are more likely to be depressed and anxious, both during adolescence and as they grow into adults. They may be less confident, less outgoing, and struggle with mental health problems throughout their lives. Research has also shown that bullies themselves are likely to struggle socially; trouble fitting in with peers is often part of why they act out and victimize others, as a way to feel that they are more socially secure than someone else is.

Now, new research shows that bullying doesn’t just harm mental health: it has a direct correlation with academic performance. Middle schools surveyed about their own and their peers’ bullying experience. Those students identified as the most-victimized (both self-identified and identified by others) had consistently lower grades, classroom involvement, and school attendance than their peers. When students feel bullied by their schoolmates, they harbor more negative feelings about school in general. They are less likely to attend, less likely to participate in class, and less likely to feel motivated to achieve and feel proud of themselves. To teachers unaware of the bullying, these behaviors may appear to reflect a lack of motivation or an unwillingness to learn.

The problem is cyclical, note the study’s authors. Once students start performing lower, they are more likely to be picked on as a result. Dealing with childhood bullying is no easy task. Both bully victims and bully perpetrators can benefit from counseling to work through their feelings of social isolation, confidence, and (often) depression. But beyond that, parents, teachers and school staff need to know what to look for to identify bullying and to help students establish healthier social dynamics and standards, including reporting bullying that they witness amongst their peers.

© Copyright 2010 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Ruth

    Ruth

    August 22nd, 2010 at 10:46 AM

    Of course kids that are bullied are going to have lower grades. How can they concentrate on their studies if they don’t know what’s going to happen to them at break or after school? It must be horrible to live like that, just waiting to see if you’re going to be attacked. It’s a shame the bullies hurt them not only physically and psychologically but academically too.

  • Maddie

    Maddie

    August 22nd, 2010 at 1:27 PM

    Yeaj they have these academic setbacks because they are too frightened about what someone is going to be doing to them. There needs to be better enforcement of bullying laws and teachers and counselors need to be more willing to do something about kids getting picked on at school. If school is not a safe place then where is? For some kids this is the only safe haven that they have and bullies are taking this away from them. And now in addition to that academic performance is going to suffer too.

  • Suzanne

    Suzanne

    August 22nd, 2010 at 5:18 PM

    When I was in school I was subjected to bullying. There wasn’t the same amount of notice paid back then by teachers as there is today. I hated getting up every morning knowing I was in for a miserable day. If you or a close family member haven’t suffered it, you can’t understand how demoralizing bullying is. I know I could have done better in my exams than I did and would like to go to college some day to address that when I can afford it. The only thing I take consolation in is that it’s made me a more compassionate person. If I see bullying, I’ll intervene. As an adult, I have the power now to change the course of a child’s life by not ignoring it or assuming another person will do something. No one ever did it for me and I used to pray they would.

  • gina

    gina

    August 23rd, 2010 at 3:45 AM

    only a submissive person can get bullied and it should be no surprise if such a person is deeply affected by the bullying and it leads to a drop in his academic performance.

    if the person is strong enough to stand against and tackle the bully then he will automatically overcome the bullying.

  • gwen

    gwen

    August 23rd, 2010 at 4:42 AM

    What is up with this increase in bullying? Every where I turn I see a new story about how some kid has been bullied at school and has committed suicide or maybe even something not quite as horrible as that but still the stories are out there. What has happened to our kids to make them want to hurt each other so much? is it something that we are failing with them at at home or is it more than that? I know that there are people who will blame tv or video games, but I honestly believe it is the total moral breakdown of society that is leading to this. We don’t do enough to give our kids the skills that they need to talk to each other and work out situations so they turn to violence and bullying because that is the one sure thing that they see that could remedy a situation. People this is not right. We should not behave toward each other this way and the poor kids are the ones suffering because of this. How do we make it go away is anyone’s guess but I do know one thing. This has to be stopped being taken so lightly at school and teachers and parents both have to step in when they see something going on.

  • Hunt

    Hunt

    August 23rd, 2010 at 10:49 AM

    ^^ You are absolutely right, Gwen. It is neither the TV nor the video games, but it is us, the society as a whole, due to which our kids are learning all this.

    Kids are not born with an ability to bully other kids but they acquire this after seeing bullying between adults. This may not be exactly bullying but they do see one person bossing over or dictating terms to another and this is where they learn such things.

  • Rene

    Rene

    August 24th, 2010 at 4:47 AM

    I’m sorry but where are the parents when this is going on? If this were my child I would not allow it to go on long enough to have an effect on my kids academic performance too! I would be at that school so fast it would make your head spin and if something was not doen to stop that bullying immediately, then my child would be gone from that situation!

  • Suzanne

    Suzanne

    August 25th, 2010 at 4:52 AM

    As a teacher I have to say that it is sometimes difficult to know everything that is going on in the classroom or on the playground all of the time. That is not negligence on our part but rather the reality of overcrowded schools and classrooms. You come to rely on getting to know your students well and hoping that they will come to you if they are personally being harassed or if they see this happening to a classmate but you and I both know that this is not going to happene every time. We all have to do a better job at keeping our eyes and ears open but there are sadly going to be times when things will fall through the cracks, so parents have to step in sometimes too. And talking to your kids about what bullying is and why it is wrong can go a long way toward stopping much of this unnecessary violence that many kids are having to face and try to fight off.

  • Paula

    Paula

    August 26th, 2010 at 4:51 AM

    Sometimes as a parent you have to make the choice to pull your kid out of that school no matter how hard that may be to do.
    I felt like nobody was listening to us when this happened with my own child. A teacher’s kid was doing the bullying and nobody at the school wanted to hear that. We did everything we could but finally had to remove my son from the situation.
    I had to send him to a school that I was not so impressed with on an academic level but we are making ti work. And he is thriving because now he enjoys getting up and going to see his friends at his new school and not worrying about the bullies at the old school.

  • Claire F.

    Claire F.

    August 27th, 2010 at 7:02 PM

    Bullying Victims Often Suffer Academic Setbacks as a Result. And this is news to people? C’mon. There’s no doubt that you can’t do well at school when you’re worried about the bullies. That’s common sense. Why are so many studies being undertaken that in conclusion are reporting the obvious? The money could be better spent I’m sure.

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