by Suzee Skwiot
Bullying happens to about half of all children at some point in their lives. And at least 10 percent of kids experience it on a regular basis. It happens on playgrounds, in the hallways, and on countless social media sites daily.
Sure parents worry, but often we think our kids will get over it once that day, or week, or school year passes. Unfortunately, that's not the case. Bullying extends far beyond adolescence and can have lasting effects on your child's future relationships, health, and well-being. "Bullying is something that can change someone's life trajectory for years and years to come," says William Copeland, MD, an Associate Professor at the Duke University School of Medicine.
What's worse, it doesn't matter which side of the interaction children fall on. Whether they're a bully, a victim, or a bully-victim (a person who was bullied and also bullies others), bullying can scar them for life. This is why it's important for all parents to take part in the bullying conversation and start to take serious steps to make it stop.
Here's how bullying can affect your child later in life.
Children who are bullies ...
- Abuse drugs and alcohol. Uh-oh. If your kid is a bully now, according to a 2013 study published by the Association of Psychological Science, he'll be four times more likely to grow up into a liar, a drunk, a drug user, a cheater, and you may even be bailing him out of jail. "These individuals have much higher levels of criminal behaviors," says Copeland, the study's co-author.
- Might end up in a gang. Almost 10 percent of bullies grow up to have violent tendencies -- whether it's abusing spouses, kids, or animals, getting in bar-room brawls, acting out on road rage, or joining a gang, you get the idea. These former bullies also have problems following rules (from breaking the speed limit to committing felonies).
- Will be lifelong manipulators. The good news is: Bullies have a higher chance of really "coming out of everything 'unscathed,'" says Copeland. The bad news: Your child will manipulate people, take advantage of them, and avoid being caught when they do something wrong. Sure, they'll appear to be successful at work and in their social lives, but are these the signs of a happy, healthy person -- or anyone you would be proud of?
Children who are bullied ...
- Are more likely to suffer from anxiety and related disorders. Your grown child could be spending lots of time on therapists' couches and filling Xanax prescriptions. When a child is bullied often, she is constantly worried and stressed about what is going to happen next and when. As a result, Copleand says, her "stress response systems can become overheated," meaning that as an adult, she'll get stressed-out easily and she'll be overwhelmed by otherwise seemingly stress-less situations.
- Do worse in school and at work. Because of the stresses of being bullied, victims can't clearly focus on tasks at hand, especially in school, and they suffer academically. Along with bully-victims, they're less likely to finish high school or go to college. Boys who were bullied are more likely to end up unemployed, and they earn less than men who weren't bullied as boys.
- Get sick more often. According to a 50-year study, victims of bullying have poorer health at ages 23 and 50 and have more memory loss and senility by age 50.
- Have unhappy lives. Louise Arseneault, a lead researcher on a bullying study, says that children who were bullied "anticipated less life satisfaction in the years to come" as adults.
Kids who are both bullies and victims ...
- Are more likely to have panic attacks and suffer from depression. Similarly to children who were just victims, this group is more likely to have panic and anxiety disorders, caused by the stresses of being bullied. However, with the added layer of being bullies themselves, they are more likely to experience depression during adulthood.
- Might never leave the house -- literally. Girls who are bullied are more likely to grow up to be agoraphobic (an anxiety disorder where sufferers are so afraid of certain environments and situations that they avoid them). According to Copeland's study, these women were specifically uneasy in large spaces where "confrontations" are likely to have occurred.
- Are more likely to think about (and may attempt) committing suicide. What could be worse than knowing your child wants to end his life? Yet, this is often the case for boys who fell in the bully-victim category, according to Copeland. "They are not socially sophisticated and are much less adept in social situations." Thus, they'll suffer depression and panic disorders, and they can be more susceptible to suicidal thoughts.
- Have very lonely lives. Your child is less likely to get married (or stay that way) and won't have very many friends. They're more likely to be living alone in middle age, and they're less likely to have any social support if they become ill.
Any way you look at it, bullying can have a lasting and strong effect. "We need to start realizing that it's abuse," says Copeland. "And most of all, we need to be non-tolerant of it."
Have you or your child experienced bullying?
My daughter is 13 and has experienced exclusionary bullying for years. I tried working with the school repeatedly and it just didn't stop. My daughter has high functioning autism and generalized anxiety disorder. She is very unique and has many talents but she is not good with social interactions with her peers and well, she is quirky. This year because of the bullying at school my daughter went into a severe depression and threatened suicide. She is on medical leave for the rest of the year. Next year she will be going to a hybrid school. I will homeschool her three days a week and she will go to school 2 days a week. I should have done this years ago.
I was bullied by three teens for two years during jr. high. Went from petty insults to having them throw paper balls on fire at me to burn my hair. In order to avoid this I started walking three miles to and from school, and ended up getting in trouble for being tardy. Thus when I explained why, the school and my parents thought I was lying. I was even punished for property damage as a homeowner saw me stomping his garden fixture (small gazebo thing). No one believed that I was trying to stomp out a fire from the paper thrown at me.
I was put in a suicide behavior watch class and sent to counseling. It took five months of being in that class and having been asked in a myriad of ways if my father was abusing me (since they saw the cuts, bruises and burns) before another kid stepped up and told the school what was happening. Imagine their surprise when it mirrored what I had been saying.
The teens claimed that they were just trying to get me to fit in and overcome my shyness and didn't realize that the teasing was being taken as harassment. They were believed and I was now forced to go to therapy for socialization issues due to a poorly developed self image.
DD at age 3 was being bullied (sort of) by a roommate's child (age 3)His mom (who was watching her while I was at class) saw nothing wrong with her son ripping DD's toys away from her and destroying her stuff all because she wouldn't share some of her things. It got to a point that he would grab things from her hands and she would get into trouble for crying or trying to take it back. Now I see nothing wrong with a child not sharing some of their things. The mom said it wasn't fair that her son had nothing and DD had a lot. (excuse me? DD is the second female in a group of 25 cousins and the other girl was 9 when DD was born so we got a lot of toys and clothes that were bought by my cousins & aunts for girls they never had). DD wasn't bragging about it or shoving it in the boy's face, nor was he restricted from playing with things (except for the porcelain tea set that DD could only play with under supervision at that age). She was getting paid (living space & food instead of money- her living space: inlaws studio apartment can and has been rented out for $500 a month+ utilities before) to watch DD for 10 hrs a week, so I don't see what the issue was with the arrangement she had agreed to (and signed a document stated that). I fired her and evicted her. DD seems fine, but in the two years since she is very possessive about her special toys. I have been told that this wasn't bullying because the kid was 3 and couldn't understand what he was doing.
I was bullied big time in middle school. By highschool, I grew the "I could care less about you so go away" mentality and then people pretty much left me alone...until my Jr year when a "friend" decided to start going out of her way to make my life miserable, and convinced a bunch of her friends to do it too. Sucks for her when she realized I was hardly there senior year and then graduated early. My life went on and on track for the most part, and hers fell apart...
My daughter was bullied pretty bad the first semester of her first grade yr in public school. We pulled her out at semester and ended that. It wasn't just the students either...the teachers and staff were just as bad (not all, but enough of them). It didn't help that we only recieved lies from them whenever we confronted them about incidents (like my daughter being poked in the eye with the tip of a pencil on multiple occasions...and when the kid in library cut my daughter's hair...) She now suffers with anxiety. No where near as bad as when she was in PS, but she still has bad anxiety, and appologies for EVERYTHING even when it was not her fault, or even close to being her fault... So far my little guy has been bullied free.