Say NO to Bullying

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Article written by Cassandra Gist - Paediatric Psychologist

What is Bullying?

Bullying can be defined as repeated negative, ill-intentional behaviour by one or more child directed against a child who has difficulty defending himself or herself (Olweus, 2004). 

Involvement with bullying is a stressful life event for both children who bully, those who are victimised, and their families.  Bullying behaviour in not just the result of individual characteristics, but is influenced by multiple relationships with peers, families, teachers, neighbours, and interactions with societal influences (e.g. media, technology etc).  Ryoo, Wang, and Swearer (2014) found that among youth who are frequently involved in bullying, children assumed different roles in bullying across school years.  They found that youth can observe bullying, experience bullying and perpetrate bullying across different situations and/or over time.

Is your child being bullied?

Common characteristics of a child who being bullied:

  • Cautious, sensitive, quiet, withdrawn and shy
  • Anxious, insecure, unhappy, and have low self-esteem
  • May have depressive symptoms and engage in suicidal ideation more often than children their age
  • Relate better to adults than to peers their age
  • A boy may be physically weaker than their peers

Is your child the Bully?

Common characteristics of a bully:

  • A strong need to dominate and subdue other children and get their own way
  • Impulsive and easily angered
  • Defiant and aggressive toward adults, including parents and teachers
  • Display little empathy toward other children who are victimised
  • A boy may be physically stronger than other boys his age

Outcomes of Bullying

Research indicates that being involved as both a perpetuator and victim seems to compound the impact of bullying with greater risk for:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Low self-esteem
  • Self harm
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Physical injury
  • Substance abuse
  • Negative attitudes toward school
  • Absenteeism
  • Poor perceptions of school safety
  • Aggression
  • Delinquency (Berkowitz & Benbenishty, 2012)

How to stop and prevent Bullying

Bullying stems from complex interactions between individuals and the contexts in which they function, both proximal (family, peers, school climate) and distal (societal, cultural influences).  Accordingly, multiple systems must be targeted in order for bullying prevention and intervention to be successful.

  • Create a school and home environment characterised by:
  • Warmth, positive interest, and involvement from adults
  • Firm limits on unacceptable behaviour
  • Consistent application of rules and firm consequences that are clear to the child
  • Adults who are positive role models

A psychologist can help families by educating aspects of bullying, guiding discussions around expressing feelings, increasing self confidence, opening conversations within the family, interacting with the school, help create goals to work toward, and parenting tips to reduce stress.


Berkowitz, R., & Benbenishty, R. (2012).  Perceptions of teachers’ support, safety, and absence from school because of fear among victims, bullies, and bully-victims. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 82,67-74. doi: 10.1111/j.1939-0025.2011.01132.x

Olweus, D. (2004).  Bullying at school: Prevalence estimation, a useful evaluation design, and a new national initiative in Norway. Association for Child Psychology and Psychiatry Occasional Papers, 23, 5-17.