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Bullying: How Children and Young People Affect their Social Environment

Updated: Mar 2, 2023

Author: Ivelisse Ginorio Master's Student of Clinical Social Work at the Universidad Ana G. Mendez Online Campus

Violence in schools is a reality that denies millions of children and young people the fundamental human right to education every day. Bullying or so-called social harassment is a social stigma that affects the lives of our children and young adults, both for the victim and the aggressor. The psychological traumas that give rise to these experiences in affected individuals must be made visible so that people recognize the gravity of the situation and take the necessary measures to put an end to the drama.

Plan International estimates that 246 million children and adolescents could be victims of violence in and around their schools. This phenomenon disproportionately affects girls, as well as those who allegedly do not conform to prevailing sexual and gender norms.

What is social bullying?

Social bullying, also known as schoolyard bullying, is a type of violence that occurs when one or more students attack another and make them the target of their aggressive behavior for an extended period. The child who has been bullied will experience physical aggression, hostility, threats, and social exclusion during all this time. It is a cruel game of unwarranted aggression that, as time progresses, damages both the psychological health of the victim and the moral character of the aggressor.

Characteristics of social bullying

In general terms, we can talk about three basic characteristics of social bullying that are defined by three parameters:

  1. Main roles: social bullying is given to a helpless victim by a main aggressor accompanied by several spectators who encourage or participate directly in the aggressive.

  2. Power relationship: there is an obvious inequality of power that pits several strong aggressors physically, psychologically, and/or socially against a weak victim.

  3. Persistence over time: This perverse relationship of dominance-submission occurs constantly and repeatedly over a long period.

Types of social bullying

We can talk about four main types of bullying:

  1. Physical: can be directed directly against the individual (hitting, pushing, etc.) or indirectly against one of his assets (stealing, breaking, etc.).

  2. Verbal: teasing, insults, contempt, etc.

  3. Psychological: using a negative and degrading speech that lowers the victim's self-esteem and raises their feelings of fear and insecurity. In many cases, bullying causes internal trauma in the victim that can follow them for the rest of their lives (if they don't confront it, ask for help, and treat them) and can cause them to generalize that fear to other situations in their daily lives.

  4. Social: the victim is isolated from his social group of reference.

  5. Cyberbullying, where different technologies and social networks are used to make aggressions public. Here you will find more information about What cyberbullying is, its causes, and its consequences.

  6. Dating violence: it would fall within cyberbullying but, in this case, it would refer to the emotional blackmail that is carried out between couples of teenagers, with the threat of publishing intimacies. In this case, we could talk about a variant of gender violence. Here you can read more about Adolescents and gender violence.

Contextual causes of social bullying

  • Family: it is the main and most significant environment in which people socialize and lay the foundations for their subsequent adaptation to their physical, emotional, and social being.

  • School: This is the second relevant scenario for children's socialization and healthy development, so how they live and are cared for affects their likelihood of experiencing bullying or acting aggressively.

  • Socio-economic and cultural: the micro-social context in which we operate can condition our position as aggressors, victims, or as a preventive of bullying. A social group that protects against a group that incites violence (cases of aggressors) or has no reference group (victims); living with and/or suffering sexist or discriminatory attitudes for any reason of race or social condition also positions us in one place or another; etc.

  • Pregnancy: Since a person's perinatal experience determines their subsequent mental health, it is a crucial point to emphasize. Unpleasant or traumatic experiences during pregnancy can predispose a victim or abuser to weak or impulsive personalities, preparing them for future experiences of bullying on one side or the other.

Personal causes of social bullying

  • From the victim: we are talking about very insecure and highly introverted people, which makes it difficult for them to establish and maintain healthy social relationships.

  • From the aggressor: People with impulsive temperaments and low frustration tolerance are involved, which encourages them to engage in aggressive behavior to vent their excessive internal discontent. These are people with an impulsive temperament and a very low tolerance for frustration, which encourages them to execute aggressive behaviors as a discharge of their excess inner discomfort.

In both cases, the aggressor and the victim are people who are driven to adopt opposite behaviors as a means of survival, hiding and fleeing in the case of the victim and attacking and throwing on the offender in the case of the aggressor.

Consequences of social bullying

Bullying is a situation of abuse that generates terrible consequences for the victim, such as:

  • Low academic performance and/or school failure.

  • Low self-esteem and assertiveness.

  • Social isolation and loneliness.

  • Poor or non-existent social relations.

  • Rejection of school.

  • Anger and, at the same time, terror.

  • Somatizations (insomnia, enuresis, and physical pain) and symptoms that may persist into adulthood.

  • Suicidal ideation.

  • Low emotional intelligence.

At the same time, experiencing this hostile situation of aggression also has very negative effects on the social insufficiency of the aggressor and the feelings of fear and insecurity of the observers.

How to prevent social bullying

The best way to prevent bullying is to provide children and youth with a secure emotional and psychological foundation that is supported by their families and their schools. At the end of the day, and considering the potential risks of experiencing this type of bullying in the infant and toddler age range, it is essential that family and school work together to care for, protect, and educate young children and teens about the risks of bullying.

Encouraging open communication between family members, showing concern for the personal lives of school students, encouraging them to seek assistance if they experience any form of abuse, and coming forward anonymously if they are witnesses, etc. are some of the most crucial measures to put in place to prevent abuse permanently.

If you are bullied or know someone who does, ask your family, classmates, and teachers for help or report it. Many professionals can help you overcome the situation and regain personal confidence. Stop hiding, you deserve another better life! Here's what to do in case of bullying.


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