Animal models may also provide useful insight here because they allow for direct manipulation of bullying exposure or social defeat and offer an opportunity to explore biological mechanisms in more depth. Additional studies like this one will guide and orient future human research aimed at understanding the development of mental health difficulties in young victims of bullying.
Considerable efforts are in place to reduce bullying behaviours and limit its impact on the victims. The UK Government's approach to bullying is summarised in a document which outlines the remit of schools for tackling bullying, their legal obligations, and some effective antibullying strategies Department for Education, It provides a definition of bullying, reviews the safeguarding of children and young people and the underpinnings of criminal law.
It also provides advices to teachers and school staff on how to tackle and prevent bullying. Attention is also given on how to attend to young victims of bullying. Since the late 90s, all schools in the United Kingdom must have in place an antibullying policy. These policies include — among other information — principles and values of the school, a definition of bullying, and advice on how to record and report bullying incidents.
This document must be presented to and discussed with the pupils as well as shared with parents and school staff. Each school develops its own policy and framework for tackling bullying with guidance from the Government. All schools have the ownership of their policies, and as a consequence, their content and implementation vary considerably from one school to another.
Bullying in Adulthood: Assessing the Bullies and Their Victims by Peter Randall
Australia is one of the first countries to have developed a national policy for the prevention and management of bullying and other aggressive behaviours, the National Safe Schools Framework NSSF. This framework lists 11 principles to assist schools in providing a safe environment to their pupils. These include: promote care, respect and cooperation and value diversity; recognise the critical importance of preservice and ongoing professional development in creating a safe and supportive school environment; focus on policies that are proactive and oriented towards prevention and intervention; and take action to protect children from all forms of abuse and neglect.
Findings from the United States are somewhat more encouraging. A recent study examined the effectiveness of the antibullying legislation using data from 25 different states. Findings further reported the legal components that were consistently associated with a reduction in bullying victimisation: statement of scope, description of prohibited behaviours, and requirements for districts to develop and implement local policies.
In other words, details, specificity and clarity of the legislative components were all associated with greater success. Findings indicated no decrease in rates of bullying behaviour between and , despite the implementation of antibullying programmes nationwide. The authors also noticed no increase in mental health problems between and , but an increase in mental health service use during that same period.
The authors suggest that a combination of antibullying and mental health interventions may offer better results. This is an interesting conclusion that deserves further attention. Such programmes vary widely with regard to their focus and methods of delivery. For example, some interventions target the implementation of new curriculum. They commonly include videotapes, lectures and discussions around the topic of bullying with the aim of promoting attitudes against bullying and prosocial behaviours.
They are usually limited in time and in outreach by involving mostly classrooms for a few weeks. It also involves a wide range of people including all pupils, teachers, school staff, families and when possible, communities.
Bullying in Adulthood: Assessing the Bullies and their Victims
This intervention programme includes a combination of universal and indicated actions to prevent and stop the occurrences of bullying incidents. The universal actions focus at influencing youth's reaction when witnessing bullying instances bystanders. The idea here is to change the attitude of the classmates in order to reduce the reward and the motivation of those who bully others.
The indicated actions focus on the victims and the bullies more specifically. This programme is not limited to implementing a school ethos and goes beyond by providing staff practical tools such as video films, computer games, and Internet forum. Greater reduction in victimisation was found for intensive and holistic approaches involving multiple groups of people and environments. Efficient antibullying programmes are important and should be developed and supported as widely as possible. However, these programmes are likely to be costly and challenging for schools from deprived areas which deal with several other important educational challenges.
Furthermore, evaluations of antibullying policies and school programmes tend to suggest that the likelihood of eradicating bullying behaviour is small and despite such invaluable programmes, a considerable proportion of young people will not escape this form of abuse in their youth. It might be considered controversial to investigate early factors that could increase the risk of children and adolescents becoming victims of bullying. This endeavour goes against a general assumption that bullying has nothing to do with the unfortunate victims, but all to do with the perpetrators of bullying behaviours.
However, the search for these predictors is central to our understanding of the impact of being bullied in childhood. It is crucial for research to account for these factors when determining later outcomes associated with being bullied in childhood. From a prevention perspective, it is also imperative to identify characteristics that render children vulnerable for bullying victimisation Espelage, In line with the definition of bullying, research has demonstrated that victims of bullying are a vulnerable group who show difficulties prior to being bullied. Twins studies have pushed further the search for factors associated with being bullied by showing it is partly heritable.
This finding does not imply there is a gene for being bullied in childhood. Rather, it suggests that heritable symptoms such as emotional and behavioural problems mediate these genetic influences. The mechanisms explaining how specific characteristics and environments translate into a risk for children being bullied are not fully understood: anxious and depressed children may be perceived as easy targets who will not retaliate when other children are abusive towards them.
Aggressive children may attract hostility from other children. Contextual factors may also influence child characteristics, which in turn affect their risks for being bullied. Thus, factors in children's family and school environments may increase their likelihood of being bullied, over and above their personal characteristics.
There is no such thing as a profile for the typical young victim of bullying. In addition to contextual and individual factors, circumstances such as moving to a new school or starting to wear glasses may also put some children at risk of being bullied. However, evidence indicates that youths from deprived socioeconomic backgrounds, who have previously experienced violence victimisation and who already show a vulnerability for developing mental health problems have an increased risk of being bullied, via both genetic and environmental pathways. This body of research has identified individual and contextual factors among children and adolescents that contribute at making them potential victims of bullying.
It is important for prevention strategies to consider these factors because they could become targets of fruitful early interventions to stop some children from being bullied in the first place. A public health approach aimed at preventing vulnerable children from becoming the targets of bullying may be an effective strategy to reduce society's burden related to bullying.
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For example, instructing young children and especially those at risk of becoming the target of bullying skills for facing adversity and standing up to bullying may contribute to reducing this form of abuse. Prevention programmes aimed at building resilience could also benefit young children likely to be exposed to this form of abuse. However, it is important to remember at this point that young children who are victims of bullying already show signs of vulnerability and are possibly at risk for developing difficulties despite their experience with bullying.
The evidence reviewed above provides strong and robust support for an independent contribution of childhood bullying victimisation to the development of poor outcomes throughout the life span, including mental, physical and socioeconomic outcomes.
However, several important questions remain unanswered. Here are a few. First, there are increasing concerns about the impact of cyberbullying and Internet harassment. This form of abuse deserves careful attention given the widespread use of social media by young people today.
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The anonymity conferred by online interactions may further empower the perpetrators because they know they are less likely to face the consequences of their actions. Second, considerable attention has been focused on bullying in the childhood and adolescent years. Bullying also takes place among adults with potentially damaging consequences, domestic violence potentially being one such example.
Some research has been conducted among specific groups such as prisoners Ireland, but this line of work could be extended to representative population of adults. For example, bullying in the workplace has gained considerable interest recently. Institutional bullying operates within an organisation's rules and policies and takes place, typically but not exclusively, during the adult years. Research should determine whether it also contributes to mental health problems among adults, as this would also have an important economic impact.
Third, the role of genetic factors has been neglected when it comes to understanding the impact of being bullied in childhood. It is also important to explore the genetic influences that contribute to the risk of being bullied. This may provide fruitful avenues for preventing young children from being bullied in the first place. As an example, the use of polygenic risk scores could help identify heritable characteristics associated with the risk of being bullied at a young age. Fourth, the examination of the outcomes associated with childhood bullying victimisation should not be limited to individual consequences and could be extended to societal impacts, including institutions and systems.
Emerging studies on the mental health service use are good examples. Research could include measures of the consequences of bullying victimisation on health institutions, social services and the education system. In addition, studies could also include measures of economic impact. Fifth, developing new innovative and rigorous research designs remains crucial despite the strong evidence reviewed above showing that being bullied in childhood can have a significant harmful impact. The use of natural experiments and other innovative study designs to support causal inferences of the role of bullying victimisation could strengthen current evidence.
The use of animal models, where researchers can exercise greater control over the environment, can help unravel the mechanisms behind poor outcomes associated with being bullied. Modifications in animal social hierarchies are well suited to examine the impact of bullying victimisation and easily allow the observation of associations between changes in social status and changes in outcomes.