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The Long Term Consequences of Being Bullied

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D.

The Long Term Consequences of Being BulliedThere was a time when bullying in schools and neighborhoods was nothing more than kids pulling pranks on one another. In other words, it was just an example of "kids being kids." There was even the attitude that, if the target of the bullying would just fight back, the bully would learn his lesson and stop. As it turns out, none of this is true. Instead, bullies do not stop if a youngster stands up for himself. Rather, the nature and type of the violence can become worse and even involve other bullies. In addition, research now shows that there are long term negative consequences for those who have been bullied.

A new study just published in "Psychological Science," a journal of the Association of Psychological Science, found that those exposed to bullying increased the risk of problems ranging from health problems to smoking regularly and developing a serious psychiatric disorder during adulthood. The targets of bullying appear to have additional problems in the areas of forming social relationships later in life, especially in the area of forming long term relationships. In other words, the consequences of bullying are not restricted to childhood and stretch well into adulthood. Bullying must be seen as a serious problem and must no longer be dismissed as kids having harmless fun.

It's important for teachers, school officials, parents and religious leaders to address the problem. Too often, attempts by parents to intervene end up having the opposite effect of what is attended. Very swiftly, parental involvement can turn into further ammunition for the bully to attack his victim. However, that is more likely to happen when concerned and involved parents have no support from school official who, sometimes, do not want to be involved if the bullying took place off the school bounds. The fact that the bullies are students from the school and even from the same class as the target, does not seem to impress some school staff.

Through unity involving the entire community, and this includes parents, teachers, school officials, elected officials and religious leaders, a lot can be done to reduce the incidence of bullying in the schools and neighborhoods.

By the way, the problem of bullying cuts along all ethnic, economic and religious lines. It is not restricted to any single community.

Your comments are appreciated.

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD.