This chapter provides a review of the literature on the effects of bullying on students in general over time. It provides information on what various authors have noted or realized from the background of bullying and its relation to victim’s depression, social loneliness and withdrawal, absenteeism, thoughts of revenge, poor academic performance, delinquency, violence, nervousness and other psychological conditions and suicide.
Literature Search Strategy
An electronic search for articles indexed in the databases was done in order to characterize the scientific literature on the psychological effects of bullying on children’s in secondary schools. This was performed using the indicators such as year, country, victims of bullying, problems associated with exposure to bullying, types of bullying, low academic performance associated with bullying, bullying in secondary schools, and the psychological effects of bullying. In addition to this, the Forde Library at the University of the Southern Caribbean and the Trinidad and Tobago Public Library was utilized to obtain research materials.
The electronic search was conducted through the Medline database, which provided published journals and articles on health sciences. The Web of Science database, which is a multidisciplinary database that aggregates content from journals of greater academic impact from different academic sectors. Google Scholar, which is a database created by Google that can search in multiple languages and provide links to libraries of various universities, and the PsycInfo database, which offered psychological literature linked to the American Psychological Association. Refseek, an academic search engine for students and researchers which locates relevant academic search results from web pages, books, encyclopedias, and journals, as well as EBSCO search, were used. These were chosen to obtain publications from the most diverse and scholarly documents published from across the globe and to try to identify the impact of this crisis in publications worldwide.
The search terms bullying, types of bullying, victims of bullying, aggression associated with bullying, who are bullies, where does bullying occur were entered in each database and searched for in the titles and/or abstracts of the publications. This search was done by entering the years 2007 to present.
After the researcher reviewed the literature on bullying, the word “bully” could be traced back as far as the 1530s (Donegan, 2012). Defining the term ‘bullying’ could be challenging as the authors’ views on the topic seemed to vary significantly. Bullying is universally accepted as deliberate and unjustified physical or emotional violence. Donegan (2012) describes bullying “to be an act which involves two people, a bully or intimidator, and a victim. The bully abuses the victim through physical or verbal acts or other means in order to gain a sense of superiority and power (p. 33). Swart and Bredekamp (2009) described bullying as “a group phenomenon within which children play a variety of roles, including that of the aggressor, victim, observer, defender, and bully-victim” (p. 409). Sulillvan (2011) defines bullying as” a conscious, willful and repetitive act of aggression and/or manipulation and/or exclusion by one or more persons against another person or people” (p. 10.)
Bullying is any unwanted aggressive behaviour by other youth or group of youths, who are not a sibling or current dating partners, and involves an observed or perceived power imbalance that is repeated multiple times or is likely to be repeated. Bullying may inflict harm or distress on the targeted youth, including physical, psychological, social, or educational harm (Gladden, Vivolo-Kantor, Hamburger, & Corey, 2014, p. 7)
The theoretical framework used in this research was Bandura’s Social Learning Theory, which postulates that children learn by observation. This theory describes the way people imitate certain behaviours, such as violence, through a process known as modeling. An article in the British Journal of Psychology defined modeling as, “learning by watching, interpreting, and evaluating peers carrying out a task.” According to this theory, children model the behaviours of the persons around them who they look to for guidance. These children then portray what was learned when socializing with their peers. When children see adults engaging in violent behaviours, they also behave the same manner..
Another theory used was Urie Bronfenbrenner’s (1917-2005) Ecological Systems Theory, which states that the first form of learning and socialization is the home. According to this theory, children display what is learned within the walls of the home to the wider society. This theory postulates that human development is influenced by the different types of environmental systems. The Ecological Systems Theory holds that people encounter different environments throughout the human lifespan which may influence behaviour in varying degrees. These systems include the micro system, the meso system, the exo system, the macro system, and the chronosystem (Sincero, 2012).
Literature review of key concepts and variables
Types of Bullying
According to (Darney, Howcroft, & Stroud, 2013) Bullying can be categorized into two terms and can be broadly defined in terms of their directness. The two categories for describing bullying behaviour are direct bullying and indirect bullying. The third type of bullying is cyber bullying.
Direct forms of bullying were defined as episodes where attacks are openly carried out the bully or bullies and victim present. These acts include, but is not limited to, biting, choking, hair pulling and hitting. It involves behaviours that are noticeable and enforced utilizing physical and verbal means. Usually, direct bullying involves relatively open attacks on a victim and is referred to as “in front of your face” behaviours (Maiuro, 2015).
Direct bullying can also be described as behaviours that can be visible, these types of behaviours consist of placing the victim in fear or harming the victim. The perpetrator using tactics such as using derogatory words to refer to the victim, insulting the victim in the presence of others, making negative comments about gender, race or physical deformities, and excessive teasing. Additionally, physical violence can be used. These may include striking, shoving, tripping and other acts of physical abuse, as well as the destruction of property, and extortion of money or other possessions (Logsdon 2007).
According to (Darney et al., 2013) indirect forms of bullying are usually as more covert and less direct. These include, but are not limited to, telephone calls, spiteful teasing and spreading of false or malicious rumours. This type of bullying is often associated with nonverbal communication and can be manifested through the use of hand gestures and weird or threatening looks, whispering, excluding a person, and restricting where a person can sit and who they can interact.
Some bullying can manifest as covert and indirect, usually intentionally hidden, and are very hard for the victim and bystanders to interpret the behaviour as such. The perpetrator can employ the act of spreading rumours, threatening, blackmailing, stealing friends, breaking secrets, gossiping, criticising clothing and personalities. The consequence of indirect bullying can be associated with damaging another’s social reputation, peer relationships, and self-esteem through psychological harm rather than physical harm (Baier, 2007).
Indirect bullying can also manifest itself in a secretive form. These can include such acts as eliminating, excluding, isolating, the victim from activities also spreading rumours and causing other public humiliation. Manipulating friends and relationships with whom the victim associates with, circulating hurtful notes to friends of the victim, or posting intimidating or negative emails or web material, blackmailing and harassment, are all secretive forms of bullying. Special education students are often seen as soft targeted by bullies who use their disabilities to intimidate and gain power over these victims (Logsdon, 2007).
Cyber bullying, this type of bullying is done electronically through the internet, via emails and online chat rooms. Perpetrators used this medium to attack victims by entering their personal space which violates the victim’s rights inside the home through computers. Victims have to endure bullying beyond the hostile and threatening school environment; threats can reach the safety of victim’s homes. Student’s reputation can be damaged by hostile and abusive messages posted about them in online chat rooms. Also, the victims of cyber bullying are subject to threatening emails (Donegan, 2012).
According to Nixon (2014), this type of bullying can have catastrophic effects because of the emotional, psychological and physical effects and sometimes visible injuries inflicted by the victims upon themselves. There is a moral concern; it is the intention of the perpetrator using to be intentional and intimidating behaviour that is intended to harm others.
Where bullying occurs
According to Sulivan (2011), bullying occurs in the poorer areas of society, where there are higher rates of drug and alcohol abuse, theft, unemployment and single parent families. Bullying also occurs in schools that are less academically focused. Rigsby (2007) states that within the school compound, bullying occurs on the playground, classrooms, corridors, outside the school building, at lunch and to and from school. It occurs in areas where there is little or no supervision by teachers.
Cyber bullying, described as the wilful and continuous harm perpetrated upon a victim through the use of computers, cell phones and other electronic devices. This can be done through the mediums of Instagram, Whatsapp and Facebook. While traditional bullying can be social, physical or a combination of both, cyber bullying is often associated with the bully knowing the secret lives of the victim, for example, information, pictures or videos. This can be used to bully the victim and cause the victim to accede to the perpetrator’s request or even commit suicide (Hinduja & Patchin, 2014).
Emotional and psychological consequences of bullying
Psychological well-being is usually conceptualized as some combination of positive affective state, such as happiness and functioning with optimal effectiveness in individual and social life (Makvanda, 2016 p. 14). People with high psychological well-being naturally feel happy, well supported and satisfied with life. They also function effectively (Nazir & Nesheen, 2015). Cohen (2009) reported that victims of bullying are forced to endure several social and emotional challenges, including stress, anxiety. These social and emotional issues can hinder the students’ ability to succeed both during high school and as they transition into adulthood.
Ouellet-Morin (2011 p.1) reports that physical maltreatment has long-lasting effects on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) reactivity. This is associated with social, emotional, and behavioural problems. Hemphill et al., (2011) reported the consequences of bullying are binge drinking depression and School absenteeism thereby poor academic performance is the result. Kosciw et al (2013) gleaned lower self-esteem and lower academic performance is often the results of bullying.
Wang et al.(2011) having researched the effects of bullying concluded that depression was associated with all forms of bullying. The victims of bullying often feel lonely, humiliated, insecure and fearful attending school. For these students, it is a struggle to form and maintain relationships and social skills which make it difficult for to make new friends.
The consequences of bullying victimization include psychological and psychosomatic distress, problematic emotional and social responses such as eating disorders and chronic illnesses. Some victims injure themselves which can lead to suicide. Others have run away from home to evade the trauma dealt by the perpetrators (Hinduja & Patchin, 2014).
Who are bullies?
Persons associated with bullying are categorized by bullies, victims, and bully-victims. Bully-victims are used to describe children who both bully and are bullied.
Boys are more likely to bully in general and become bully victims, while boys and girls are equally likely to be victims (Leiner et al.,2014). Bullies can be characterized as aggressive, domineering, having a positive view of violence, impulsive and lacking empathy for their victims. While this profile appears to be accurate for confident bullies, it does not account for anxious bullies. These are the bullies that hit out because they are insecure. For passive bullies or bully-victims, who are bullies in some situations and are victims in others (Sullivan, 2011).
Authoritarian parenting characterized by harsh, negative parenting practices was associated with increased bullying experiences. According to Stepp, (2014), both the bullies and victims were affected by harsh parenting Nonetheless, children who are exposed to negative parenting, including abuse, neglect, and also overprotection, are more likely to become victims.
Research has shown that children who were members of families with low socioeconomic status, living under the poverty line and parents with only a high school education, or parents who worked in jobs that weren’t well-regarded, were more likely to be both bullies and victims. Children who grew up in a hostile environment within the home, having endured a family experience of divorce, single parenthood,the presence of step parents or separated parents, manifested a greater tendency of both committing acts of bullying and being bullied. This was also the case for children from dysfunctional families where violence, cruelty, or parental neglect was experienced (Putt, 2013).