Does Bullying Behavior Change As Teens Mature?

Bullying has become an epidemic among American youth. Adolescents are especially vulnerable to the negative mental and academic effects of bullying. “Name-calling, which can involve homophobic epithet use, is the most frequent form of victimization experienced by sexual minority youth,” said V. Paul Poteat of the Department of Counseling, Developmental and Educational Psychology at Boston College, and lead author of a recent study examining the pattern of bullying throughout the high school years. “Being called these epithets is associated with elevated mental health concerns and lower sense of school belonging for sexual minority and heterosexual youth.” Additionally, students who report being victimized also exhibit poorer academic performance and increased truancy and absenteeism as a result of the patterns associated with bullying behaviors. Poteat said, “The identification of these patterns of change is critical to develop effective programs to counter this behavior, provide adequate resources, and foster environments that promote the psychological, social, and academic development of students.”

Poteat and his colleagues examined victimization and bullying patterns to determine how they changed over time and how they impacted overall academic and social success. The researchers followed 380 high school students and found that the frequency of bullying and victimization increased for boys over the four year period, while it decreased for girls. “Also, variability in students’ own bullying and victimization across assessments corresponded with variability in their use of homophobic epithets and being called these epithets,” said Poteat. “Further, students who reported overall higher tendencies to bully or to be victimized than others also reported more often using and being called homophobic epithets during their first semester of high school.” This study is the first of its kind to look at the relationship between victimization, bullying and homophobic epithets. “Moreover, attention to variability in homophobic bullying and victimization experiences and how these relate to varying patterns and fluctuations in students’ mental health or academic performance and school belonging over time is needed.” Poteat added, “Continued research in this area is critical in order to inform efforts to foster safer and more welcoming schools, to encourage diversity-affirming attitudes and behaviors among students, and to promote academic achievement for all students.”

Poteat, V. P., O’Dwyer, L. M., & Mereish, E. H. (2011, December 19). Changes in How Students Use and Are Called Homophobic Epithets Over Time: Patterns Predicted by Gender, Bullying, and Victimization Status. Journal of Educational Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0026437

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  • Jasmine


    January 3rd, 2012 at 4:49 PM

    Sorry but from what I have experienced in life the ones who bullied as kids grow up to be adult bullies too. For them that dominating behavior is what they get off on and some things never change. These are the ones who thrive on making other people feel miserable, and this is the only thing that they have that makes them feel better about themselves. And wow, what a sad life they have to live.

  • babycakes


    January 4th, 2012 at 2:03 PM

    If someone is really able to break out of that mold and really bacome a mature adult then yes I can see how the bullying would stop. But those who carry that with them as an adult never reall mature. They are constantly stuck in that role of bully and they mentally can’t make it past that point of thinking that this is acceptable behavior.

    And what baffles me is that some of the most powerful people all over the world are bullies like this! But they have to know in some part of them selves that they did not make it to where they are on their own merits, but only because they were the meanest cuss in the bunch. And that is not really something that I would want to brag about.

  • carl


    January 4th, 2012 at 2:07 PM

    well I would expect a bully to retain at least some of his bullying nature even in adulthood.but one factor does exist-the other people are not going to take it as easily as in school.well that is, unless yo are the boss…!

  • H.Y


    January 4th, 2012 at 11:23 PM

    I guess bullying would decrease as one grows out of it. Bullying is a phase for some young children and they will eventually grow out of it. There will definitely be better understanding of one’s own actions at a later age and this will definitely make the former bullies at least a little deterred..!

  • Coral Mackie

    Coral Mackie

    January 5th, 2012 at 1:01 AM

    It absolutely does. They learn what hurts and what sets people off and begin to use it. The schools are at fault if a bully goes from one school to another without some horizontal bruises on his butt like they did in the old days if you picked on another student. Where are the parents at in all this, or are they trash?

  • Fred Y.

    Fred Y.

    January 5th, 2012 at 1:46 AM

    @Coral- You want an honest opinion, kiddo? They are trash. Bad parents raise bad kids, but you can’t call social workers on a person for not raising a civil human being. That’s something we need to fix. Parents have to be more responsible for their kid’s behavior, and if they can’t keep their kids on a leash then they don’t deserve to have them.

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