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“In a national survey of more than 15,000 students in grades 6 through 10, nearly one of every three students said that they had experienced occasional or frequent involvement as a victim or perpetrator in bullying.”

(Nansel & others, 2001)

What characterizes bullying?

Bullies claim that their parents are cold, dictatorial, and oftentimes physically discipline them. They also claim that they lack love and care about their kids. Bullies frequently exhibit hatred and rage, and many times they lack moral conviction.

(Obermann, 2011; Espelage & Holt, 2012)


This graph shows the types of bullying most often experienced by U.S. youth. The percentages reflect the extent to which bullied students said that they had experienced a particular type of bullying. In terms of gender, note that when they were bullied, boys were more likely than girls to be hit, slapped, or pushed.

(Nansel & others, 2001; Santrock, 2014)


(Santrock, 2014)

Who is likely to be bullied?


In the study just described, boys and younger middle school students were most likely to be affected
(Nansel & others, 2001).


Children who reported being bullied reported greater loneliness and difficulty making friends, whereas those who bullied were more likely to have low grades, smoke, and drink alcohol.

(Santrock, 2014)


Studies have discovered that children that are anxious, socially withdrawn, and aggressive are frequently bullied. Nervous and socially withdrawn children may be bullied because they pose little threat and are unlikely to retaliate, whereas assertive children may be bullied because their behavior irritates bullies

(Rubin & others, 2011; Hanish & Guerra, 2004).

How does social contexts influence bullying?

According to recent studies, 70 to 80% of victims and their bullies share the same classroom. Oftentimes, classmates are aware of bullying situations and frequently witness bullying.

(Salmivalli & Peets, 2009)


In many instances, bullies harass their victims in order to advance in the peer group, and bullies require witnesses for their power displays. Numerous bullies are not rejected by their peers.

(Peeters, Cillessen, & Scholte, 2010)


In one study, friends who perceived bullies as a threat were the only ones to reject them. According to a separate study, bullies frequently associated with one another or, in some instances, maintained their status inside the popular peer group.

(Witvliet & others, 2010; Veenstra & others, 2010)


What are the outcomes of bullying?

Researchers have discovered that children who have been bullied are more likely to experience depression, suicidal ideation, and suicide attempts than their peers who have not been bullied.

(Fisher & others, 2012; Lemstra & others, 2012)

A recent study also indicated that 11-year-olds who were bullied by their peers had an increased chance of developing borderline personality disorder symptoms.

(Wolke & others, 2012)

A meta-analysis of 33 research found a slight but statistically significant association between peer victimization and worse academic attainment.

(Nakamoto & Schwartz, 2010)

Bullies, victims, and those who were both bullies and victims reported higher health issues (such as headaches, dizziness, sleep problems, and anxiety) than their peers who were not involved in bullying.

(Srabstein & others, 2006)

What can Schools can adopt to reduce bullying

Dan Olweus is the creator of one of the most promising anti-bullying initiatives. This program targets children aged 6 to 15 with the aim of reducing opportunities and rewards for bullying. Staff members are taught on methods to strengthen peer interactions and increase school safety. When done correctly, the approach reduces bullying by 30 to 70%.

(Olweus, 2003)

Read More about the Olweus program in Clemson University  or

Develop school-wide rules and sanctions against bullying and post them throughout the school.

Encourage parents to reinforce their adolescent’s positive behaviors and model

appropriate interpersonal interactions.

Form friendship groups for adolescents who are regularly bullied by peers.

Identify bullies and victims early and use social skills training to improve their


Incorporate the message of the anti-bullying program into places of worship, schools,

and other community activity areas where adolescents are involved.

Encourage parents to contact the school’s psychologist, counselor, or social worker and ask for help with concerns involving bullying or victimization.

(Cohn & Canter, 2003; Hyman & others, 2006; Limber, 2004)

What can Teachers do to stop bullying

Modern technology presents numerous new avenues for bullying such as cyberbullying, which makes it extremely difficult for educators to spot the issue. Researchers further demonstrate that the reporting rates of bullying in schools is very low, which makes it even more difficult for educators to spot and react to the problem. However, here is what we can do:


  • Establish and promote sense of self and identity among students 

  • Advocate anonymously reporting system 

  • Address the bully directly, “why you are doing this”?

The researchers advocate for a system where teachers can assist bullied students in their behavior management skills, which is meant to engender emotional and social growth. The idea behind this is that if educators respond to bullied students in this fashion, the students will be more likely to develop characteristics that will make them less likely to become the targets of bullying. 

The National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (2016) also conducted a study that further supplemented this idea by focusing on the bully and what prompted their behavior. They discovered that merely asking the bully why they are doing it can have significant effects in reducing bullying rates.

Ensure that there is a large group of people who are willing to lookout for and spot bullying, on or off campus, and they will be able to report it anonymously. The researchers were focused on the idea that teachers need to institute anti-bullying policies in their classrooms and set up a system that allows all the students to play a role in the recognition and prevention of bullying.

(Kendrick, Jutengren, & Stattin, 2012;Walters & Mashburn, 2017, p. 6).

Addressing Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) and Bullying

The study heavily focuses on how the victims of bullies can end up engaging in bullying themselves and the research demonstrate a strong link between bullied students and oppositional defiant disorder.

(Heller, 2018, p. 1)

Characteristics being potentially symptomatic of oppositional defiant disorder

  • Poor social skills

  • Emotional control deficits

  • Aggression

  • Reactive

  • Impulsivity

  • Difficulty solving problems

  • Difficulty processing social information


(Heller, 2018, p. 2; Hood et al., 2015)


That middle school educators should pay attention to the behavior of known victims of bullying, as they could start to demonstrate the characteristics of oppositional defiant disorder and start bullying other students themselves. Beyond just paying attention to bullying victims, this study also indicates that middle school educators should take note of students who are prone to “losing one’s temper, arguing with adults, refusing to comply with adults’ requests, annoying others, blaming others for one’s own mistakes, being annoyed easily by others, being angry, and being spiteful and indicative” as all of these could be indicators that the student has oppositional defiant disorder.

(Heller, 2018, p. 11).

The method utilized “the use of rewards and punishments to shape voluntary behaviors” in a way the mitigates maladaptive behavior, encourages adaptive behavior, and causes a reduction in disruptive and combative types of behavior. This is such an important finding because it is something that middle school educators can incorporate into their classroom. This provides a clear, logical foundation for how an educator should respond after they identify a student who may have ODD. This system of operant conditioning could prove to be extremely effective in settings of this nature.

(Hood et al.,2015)

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