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Research Spotlight: Bullying Involvement Impacts Health

In short, what is the study about?

The aim of this study was to access a more holistic and integrated view of the students in terms of the social psychological impact of bullying on health, evaluating how certain health problems during adolescence are associated with bullying. Specifically, it’s a study concerning the relation between involvement in bullying and some health behaviors, among adolescents aged 12 to 17 years.

What would be the most important take-home messages from the study?

First, we need to better understand the different types of involvement in bullying. In this study, the students were defined as bullies, victims, bully-victims and not involved. Secondly, our results show a connection between these four groups and some health behaviors, providing a distinctive profile for each one. Finally, given these results, bullying intervention should also be differentiated, according to the target groups for which it is intended.

How are these findings important in practice?

This study shows how being a bully, a victim or a bully-victim can affect health, namely self-esteem, mental health (happiness, loneliness, self-confidence, feeling rejected, and feeling incapable/weak) psychosomatic symptoms (physical complaints as headache, stomachache, backache, difficulties getting to sleep and feeling dizzy, and psychological complaints as depression, irritability or bad temper, nervousness and feeling low) and substance use (tobacco, alcohol and drug consumption).

Bullying Involvement Affects Mental and Physical Health

Being a bully, victim, bully-victim, or bystander can cause an adolescent to feel less self-confident, depressed, anxious, lonely, and rejected (Source: Pixabay)

The gathered data concerning health problems (psychosomatic symptoms, physical and psychological complaints, substance use) highlights different health profiles according to the students’ involvement in bullying, allowing us to identify priority areas for intervention with aggressors, victims, and bully-victim. Our findings confirm the need for early intervention efforts that address both the participants’ role in bullying and their relation to physical, social and mental health. Consistent with longitudinal studies, early intervention to prevent childhood bullying and victimization may reduce several adverse outcomes later in life.

What other studies can be recommended to further an understanding/application of the findings?

Given the inability to determine the severity and frequency of bullying and victimization behaviors and since the sample was collected in a single time, it was impossible to evaluate the stability of the students’ involvement in bullying over time. Thus, a longitudinal research would allow to establish the etiology of becoming an aggressor and/or a victim in the school context.

Link to the primary paper

Seixas, S., Coelho, J. P. & Nicolas-Fischer, G. (2013). Bullies, victims and bully-victims: Impact on health profile. Educação Sociedade & Culturas, 38, 51-73, http://www.fpce.up.pt/ciie/sites/default/files/05.SoniaRaqueletal.pdf

About Sónia Seixas, Associate Professor, High School of Education of Santarém

Alternative Text

Sónia Seixas, Social Anthropologist and Educational Psychologist, PhD in Educational Psychology, is an associated professor in High School of Education of Santarém, Portugal, where she teaches since 2000. She is a member of the National Project Advisory Board "Social Adventure", integrated into the European network HBSC of WHO, and external evaluator of the project "Cyber Training - Taking Action Against Cyberbullying", funded by the European Commission. Sónia integrates the Anti-bullying ENABLE project as a member of the Think Tank group.

Sónia Seixas on the Web
More on: Child Mental Health Care, Depression, Parenting, Trauma
Latest update: February 18, 2017