Victims of bullying can experience a range of psychological consequences. Bullying behavior can lead to depression, anger, anxiety, avoidance, self-harm, substance misuse, and even suicidal ideation. This is especially evident in impressionable age groups such as adolescents. These non-clinical psychotic symptoms are often reported by teens that have experienced various forms of bullying. Research in this area has relied mostly on self-reports of victims. This can cause the data to be subjective and lead to overestimations of victimization and psychological symptoms. Therefore, Paula M. Gromann of the Department of Educational Neuroscience and the Faculty of Psychology and Education at VU University Amsterdam in the Netherlands led a recent study using self-reports and peer reports of bullying victimization and psychological symptoms.
Gromann evaluated reports from 724 individuals that included peer reports, nonvictim reports, and self-reports. She looked at the relationship between different forms of bullying victimization and psychological symptoms as reported by the participants, both objectively and subjectively. She found that the self-reported and self/peer-reported victims had the highest levels of victimization and psychological disturbances. Physical intimidation, victimization, and direct and indirect relational bullying all had the biggest effect on nonclinical psychotic symptoms. Verbal victimization or bullying directed at participants’ possessions had little effect on symptoms.
When Gromann looked at the peer reports and nonvictim reports she found that the incidents of bullying victimization and symptomology were much lower. This suggests that perhaps individuals who are victims of bullying have a bias towards bullying behavior and may exaggerate the symptoms they experience. Or, perhaps the symptoms exhibited by victims are more noticeable to the victims themselves than they are to peers who are not being victimized. One positive finding that emerged is that even though self-reported victims report high levels of psychological symptoms this does not seem to make them targets of future victimization as reported by the nonvictims and peers. In sum, Gromann believes that perception of victimization is what predicts the psychological outcome. She hopes that future work considers both peer assessments and self-reports in evaluations of how victimization and perception of victimization affects psychological well-being. She added, “The important question is not which measure is superior, but rather which construct is the key to understanding the association between victimization and psychosis.”
Gromann, P. M., et al. (2013). Self-perception but not peer reputation of bullying victimization is associated with non-clinical psychotic experiences in adolescents. Psychological Medicine 43.4 (2013): 781-7. ProQuest. Web.
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