“A student is being bullied or victimized when he or she is exposed, repeatedly and over time, to negative actions on the part of one or more other students” (Cook, 2010, p. 79). Given that many stereotypes that are embedded in our culture, in adolescence those that deviate from the norm can be unjustly labeled and treated as social outcasts. Teens are expected to dress and act in a manner that is similar to their peers. When these roles show signs of deviation, negative consequences such as social isolation, teasing, name calling, and verbal and physical fighting can occur as a result. “Acts of violence have expanded from school yard bullying” (Sugarman, 2013, p. 1) in which both the victim and bully had to be physically in the same place at the same time. Now, technology, such as computers, tablets, Internet, and smartphones, provides a means for bullying to occur virtually anywhere. These experiences can lead to a snowball effect of stress and anxiety that can directly impact behavior and life span development in young adults.
In many cases, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) results from being victimized by bullying. (PTSD) is defined as a psychological disorder that develops as a result of exposure to events that cause psychological trauma (VandenBos, 2007, p. 717). It causes suffers to experience long-term anxiety that can directly impact behavior. PTSD has been shown to be associated with suicidal thoughts, risk-taking behaviors, nightmares, depression, sexual recklessness, and eating disturbances (Mauk & Rodgers, 1994, p. 103). Traumas associated with PTSD can be caused from sexual assault, violence, threat of death, or any event that can overwhelm a person’s ability to cope.
Targeted victimization is causing lasting damage. This comes in the form of delays in the development of identity formation that encompasses the period of adolescence. Kohlberg describes a staged process of development in which one obstacle must be overcome before moving to the next (Berk, 2012, p. 608). While Erikson explained that identity confusion caused by internal conflicts could lead to delinquency in this population of young adults (Erikson, 1968, p. 307). In either case, the impact of victimization caused by bullying can delay the developmental processes in a multifaceted way.
Many researchers have studied the extent of which these traumatic events, such as exposure to violence in childhood, have on development from childhood to adulthood. One such study was performed by researchers O’Donnell, Schwab-Stone, & Muyeed (2002). They found that social support is the predicting factor of resiliency when children have been exposed to community violence. They studied 2,600 students from sixth, eighth, and tenth grade to identity adaptive behaviors that were gained by being a part of an urban public school system. It was found that support from peers was negatively correlated with resiliency when it came to misconduct and substance abuse in those exposed to violence. The children that had both school and parental support were more likely to recover from the exposure and were shown to have less symptoms of PTSD.
Reduction in the occurrences of bullying and targeting victimization can happen through policy change and personal empowerment. Lasting psychological impact can be lessened with the assistance of social and family support, school counseling and psychological assistance. Proper social support and problem management should be given to both the bully and the victim. MacNeil (2004) noted that the act of bullying should be addressed by tackling the behavioral pattern, not just a single situation. Parental, school, and social support is a significant factor between academic and developmental success when combating violence, abuse, and bullying. “Nearly all indirect effects of victimization on reported grades, truancy, and importance of graduating were significant through suicidality and school belongingness across groups. Parent support was most consistent in moderating the effects of victimization” (Poteat, Mereish, DiGiovanni, & Koenig, 2011).
Berk, L. E. (2012). Infants, children, and adolescents (7th ed.). Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.
Cook, C. R. (2010). Predictors of Bullying and Victimization in Child- hood and Adolescence, 25 SCH.
Erikson, E. (1968). Identity, youth and crisis. New York: W.W. Norton Company.
MacNiel, G. & Newell, J. (2004). School bullying: who, why, and what to do. The Prevention Researcher 11(3).
Mauk, G, & Rodgers, P., Building bridges over troubled waters: School-based postvention with adolescent survivors of peer suicide. Crisis Intervention Time Limited Treatment (1994). 1, 103-123.
O’Donnell, D.A., Schwab-Stone, M.E., & Muyeed, A.Z. (2002). Multidimensional resilences in urban children exposed to community violence. Child Development, 73, 1265-1282. Doi:10.1111/1467.8624.00471
Poteat, V., & Anderson, C. J. (2012). Developmental changes in sexual prejudice from early to late adolescence: The effects of gender, race, and ideology on different patterns of change. Developmental Psychology, doi:10.1037/a0026906
Sugarman, D. B., & Willoughby, T. (2013). Technology and violence: Conceptual issues raised by the rapidly changing social environment. Psychology Of Violence, 3(1), 1-8. doi:10.1037/a0031010VandenBos, G. R. (Ed.). (2007). APA dictionary of psychology. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.