Victims of bullying suffer academically as well, psychologists report

Aug 20, 2010 By Stuart Wolpert

Students who are bullied regularly do substantially worse in school, UCLA psychologists report in a special issue of the Journal of Early Adolescence devoted to academic performance and peer relationships.

The UCLA study was conducted with 2,300 students in 11 Los Angeles-area public middle schools and their teachers. Researchers asked the students to rate whether or not they get bullied on a four-point scale and to list which of their fellow students were bullied the most — physically, verbally and as the subject of nasty rumors.

A high level of bullying was consistently associated with lower grades across the three years of middle school. The students who were rated the most-bullied performed substantially worse academically than their . Projecting the findings on grade-point average across all three years of middle school, a one-point increase on the four-point bullying scale was associated with a 1.5-point decrease in GPA for one academic subject (e.g., math) — a very large drop.

Teachers provided ratings on how engaged the students were academically, including whether they were participating in class discussions, showing interest in class and completing their homework. The researchers collected data on the students twice a year throughout the three years of middle school and examined the students' grades.

The study is published Aug. 19 in the journal's online edition; the print edition will be published at a later date.

"We cannot address low achievement in school while ignoring bullying, because the two are frequently linked," said Jaana Juvonen, a UCLA professor of psychology and lead author of the study. "Students who are repeatedly bullied receive poorer grades and participate less in class discussions. Some students may get mislabeled as low achievers because they do not want to speak up in class for fear of getting bullied. Teachers can misinterpret their silence, thinking that these students are not motivated to learn.

"Students who get bullied run the risk of not coming to school, not liking school, perceiving school more negatively and now — based on this study — doing less well academically," said Juvonen, who is also a professor in UCLA's developmental psychology program. "But the link between bullying and achievement can work both ways. The students who are doing poorly are at higher risk for getting bullied, and any student who gets bullied may become a low achiever. Whether bullying happens on school grounds or after school hours on the Internet, it can paralyze students from concentrating on academics."

The research is part of a long-term UCLA bullying project led by UCLA education professor Sandra Graham (who is not a co-author on this study) and Juvonen, which is funded federally by the National Science Foundation and privately by the William T. Grant Foundation.

"Instruction cannot be effective unless the students are ready to learn, and that includes not being fearful of raising your hand in class and speaking up," said Juvonen, who has been studying bullying for more than a decade. "Once students get labeled as 'dumb,' they get picked on and perform even worse; there's a downward cycle that we need to stop.

"If the academically low-performing students are at higher risk for getting bullied, that suggests one way to reduce bullying is to help those students academically," she added. "Once they get into the cycle of being bullied because of their poor , their chances of doing better academically are worse."

Reducing bullying is a "collective challenge," she said, and not just a matter of dealing with a few aggressive students. The UCLA team's prior findings show that in middle school, bullies are considered "cool' by their classmates. The high social status of bullies promotes a "norm of meanness that needs to be addressed." Bullying affects millions of students, Juvonen said.

Of the students in the study, approximately 44 percent were Latino, 26 percent were African American, 10 percent were Asian American, 10 percent were white and 10 percent were multi-racial. Fifty-four percent were female and 46 percent were male.

Some anti-bullying programs are comprehensive and effective, while some schools rely on a number of "quick fixes" that do not work, according to Juvonen. Teachers need training in how to address bullying, she said.

Co-authors on the Journal of Early Adolescence study are UCLA psychology graduate students Yueyan Wang and Guadalupe Espinoza. The journal offers new perspectives on pivotal developmental issues among young teenagers.

In previous research, Juvonen and her colleagues found that nearly three in four teenagers were bullied online at least once during a recent 12-month period, and only one in 10 reported such cyber-bullying to parents or other adults. The probability of getting bullied online is substantially higher for those who have been the victims of school bullying. Victims of bullying do not want to attend school and often do not, Juvonen said.

In research from 2005 by Juvonen and Adrienne Nishina, an assistant professor of human development at UC Davis, nearly half the sixth graders at two Los Angeles-area public schools said they were bullied by classmates during a five-day period. In another 2005 study, Nishina and Juvonen reported that middle school students who are bullied in school are likely to feel depressed and lonely, which in turn makes them more vulnerable to further bullying.

Children who are embarrassed or humiliated about being bullied in school are unlikely to discuss it with their parents or teachers, Juvonen and Nishina found. Instead, they are more likely to suffer in silence and dislike school.

Juvonen advises parents to talk with their children about before it ever happens, pay attention to changes in their children's behavior and take their concerns seriously.

who get bullied often have headaches, colds and other physical illnesses, as well as psychological problems.

Explore further: Culture influences incidence of depression

Provided by University of California - Los Angeles

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User comments : 6

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Birthmark
3 / 5 (5) Aug 20, 2010
Makes sense. It seems bullies half self-esteem issues, and in order to feel better about themselves they bring others down to their level; self-esteem-wise and academically too.
freethinking
2.7 / 5 (7) Aug 20, 2010
Birthmark, sorry to disapoint you, criminals and bullies generally have a high self-esteem and opinion of themselves. The reason they become criminals or bullies is because they feel slighted that they can't have something or that a low life is in their presence. Bullies and criminals need to have their self esteme knocked down. Schools emphasis on self-esteme does nothing but encourage bullies.

The anti-bullying programs at school, far from reducing bullying enables it. The bullies use those programs to futher intimidate the victim.

If a kid reports being bullied, both kids are brought together, the victim is forced to appologize for doing something wrong and express their feelings. The bully appologizes to the victim and expresses their feeling about how the victim did something to them.

Imagine how many rape victims would come forward if they have to appologize to the rapist for doing something to encourage the rape, then having to shake hands with the rapist.
Au-Pu
2 / 5 (4) Aug 20, 2010
Why do we not apply objectivity to this issue?
In all other animal species we see bullying as part of their social structure. We observe it and report it.
We can it establishing a pecking order.
We accept that as a justifiable means of establishing their social order.
We do not like to see ourselves as animals.
Most people fiercely fight against this view of the human animal.
The result is they fail to look at "bullying" properly and consequently if there is a need to control, regulate or eliminate it they are unable to find it.
It is time we got real and viewed us as the animals we are. Then we might find solutions to some problems or we may discover that some problems are not the problems they are perceived to be.
MarkyMark
5 / 5 (2) Aug 21, 2010
This article really struck a cord, Wont say anymore on this subject :(
bottomlesssoul
1 / 5 (1) Aug 21, 2010
@freethinking in fact bullies in general do have very poor self esteem and use violence and manipulation to induce a sense of control over their world.

Similarly the victims of bullies usually already have poor esteem before they become a particular victim of the bully.

The bully does not choose their victim, they probe by victimizing people around them until they find one that gives the feedback they need to for the bully - victim relationship. It's then and only then the bully - victim even become defined.

Some studies even suggest the roll of the victim is just chance. In fact it seems the victim can as easily become a bully or a victim and it might be true of bullies as well.

Whatever the truth, it is growing more clear that there is psychology involved and this is behavior driven versus rational behavior of healthy people.
Sinister181
3 / 5 (2) Aug 21, 2010
This article really struck a cord, Wont say anymore on this subject :(


Yeah, I can identify with this article as well. And everything mentioned was definitely true in my case.

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