Bullying and Child Well-Being Research Paper

Pages: 8 (2182 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 5  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Children

Bullying Review

Empirical Evidence for the Link Between Bullying and Overall Child Well-Being: A Literature Review

All social situations contain inherent balances -- or imbalances -- of power between individuals that affect the relationships within the group and the functioning of the group as a whole. This fact, albeit stated in a far simpler fashion than is perhaps directly supported by research, plays out in many complex ways in different social institutions and groups, influencing the progress and actions of these groups hugely and demonstrating the precariousness of interpersonal interactions. Understanding the ways in which power is structured in these groups, and the ways in which it can be abused by certain individuals, is essential to developing an understanding of long-term success and progress for humanity as a whole.

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The power mechanisms at work in social institutions also have an effect on the individuals within these systems. It could be -- and has been -- argued that it is through the sum of these individual effects that group action, direction, and culture is affected and determined, but this is an issue of purely academic interest, and without real practical value. Of greater practical interest is the way certain power abuses in social groups affect individual development and well-being in the long-term. Bullying behaviors, which persist in many adult social organizations, are most prevalent in schools and other groups of children and adolescents, and must necessarily have an effect upon the well-being of those that experience, as aggressor and/or victim, and possibly even those that witness bullying behaviors.

Research Paper on Bullying and Child Well-Being Assignment

This literature review attempts to present an understanding of how bullying in childhood and adolescence affects long-term development and well-being based on current empirical research. Several different theoretical and practical approaches are represented in the research and literature that was examined for the creation of this review, leading to varied conclusions and different perspectives on the primary research question being examined in this review. Certain studies are more directly on point, delivering explicit information regarding the effects of bullying -- being bullied, bullying others, or witnessing bullying -- on long- and/or short-term well-being, while others are more tangentially related to this primary research concern. All of the studies incorporated herein, however, have a definite bearing in producing a current and comprehensive understanding of bullying and its effects.

Literature Review

Both short- and long-term well-being are difficult to comprehensively defined, and this presents the biggest problem in coming to a fair and accurate analysis and compilation of the various research studies examined in the formation of this literature review. Despite the fact that that the measure of well-being is not entirely consistent, however, a useful understanding of short- and long-term well-being is achieved in the process of compiling these disparate pieces of research, along with the primary objective of developing an understanding of bullying's influence on well-being. This review, then, both defines terms and establishes relationships between the various concepts and phenomena addressed in the review.

One broad understanding of well-being includes physical, psychological, and even social contexts, and in such a view the belief in a just world has been positively correlated with enhanced long-term well-being (Correia et al. 2009). Research into how this belief relates to bullying and how individuals handle and possibly mitigates its effects on well-being is still inconclusive, but seems to suggest that it can reduce distress experienced both from witnessing and being a victim of bullying (Correia et al. 2009). The greatest levels of well-being, as measured as lower levels of self-reported distress facing school and daily life, was seen amongst those who acted as defenders in instances of bullying, and belief in a just world also appeared to be higher in these individuals, though the correlation is not firmly established (Correia et al. 2009).

In a more concrete and direct study, it was found that the long-term effects of bullying are more detrimental, more pronounced, and more likely to occur among students from less affluent backgrounds than children and adolescents who experience a more financially luxurious lifestyle (Due et al. 2009). These researchers rely on other previous research establishing the proven detrimental effects of bullying on well-being in the short-term; the empirical study designed and completed by the researchers shows more clearly and concretely that the long-term effects of bullying are highly similar, with more steps to individual deterioration (Due et al. 2009). These effects include simple effects on esteem, which can have a large degree of influence over success in adulthood, and even physical health can be directly and adversely affected by experiences of bullying in childhood (Due et al. 2009).

Bullying and attitudes related to bullying behaviors have also been correlated with other non-directly related issues in adolescence, further complicating the relationship between bullying/general hostility and well-being. Specifically, sexual orientation as reported during high school amongst a group of students was seen to have a strong correlation to hostility, with same-sex-attracted students reporting higher levels of hostile feelings and attitudes than opposite-sex-attracted students that were otherwise demographically similar (Rivers & Noret 2008). Same-sex-attracted students were also found to be more likely to have engaged in other risky behaviors, such as drug and alcohol use, and were also more likely to report feelings of loneliness (Rivers & Noret 2008). While this does not correlate directly to bullying behaviors, it has interesting implications for factors of well-being coinciding with attitudes likely to contribute to bullying behaviors.

Other factors in a child's life have been linked more directly to the effects of bullying. Family support systems have been found to be especially important in bringing about resilience from bullying attacks and witnessing bullying behavior, both of which can otherwise lead to long-term behavioral and emotional problems (Bowes et al. 2010). Maternal warmth and sibling warmth -- positive attention and emotional reinforcement and support from these figures -- were found to be especially potent in combating the negative effects of bullying on well-being (Bowes et al. 2010). Direct emotional countering of bullying's emotional impact, then, seems to be indicated as a highly effective countermeasure.

Similar findings were the result of a broader and more diverse study examining the role that social support plays in adolescent well-being, as defined by large-scale and easily observable psychological trends and evidence of social adaptations (McGrath et al. 2009). This research endeavor included students living and growing up in Florida and in Ireland in two separate studies utilizing the same methodologies and analyzed in the same manner, and the results were consistent enough to suggest that the findings were relevant across at least some cultural barriers (McGrath et al. 2009). Informal social support rather than formal support -- in the form of established authority figures such as teachers, counselors, etc. -- was found to be most strongly linked to overall well-being, increasing self-esteem and decreasing the likelihood that certain events would have lasting negative effects (McGrath et al. 2009).

Another study conducted in Jamaica found that the status of the bully had extreme effects on the outcome of bullying behaviors on victims and witnesses. Specifically, bullying by teachers was seen to lead to incidents of depression, an overall loss of trust in others, and increasing oppositional attitudes, whereas as no definite outcomes could be linked to instances of peer bullying, at least not to a statistically significant degree (Pottinger & Stair 2009). This was not a long-term study, making it difficult to ascertain what the long-term effects on well-being of teacher bullying of adolescent students are, but the short-term detriments to the well-being of those exposed to bullying by teachers were quite definite and fairly extreme (Pottinger & Stair 2009). The position of the bully has a major impact on the overall outcome of bullying, then.

As the literature contained herein demonstrates, understandings of well-being are quite varied, with some approaches looking more directly at personal and individual psychological assessments as a way of gauging well-being, and others defining well-being in a broader social context. Both perspectives, however, noted detriments in the short- and long-term well-being of children and adolescents exposed to bullying, showing a consistency in these individual- and society-scaled models that is indicative of direct influence and causal relations. Bullying is as much a social ill as it is a personal problem, then, and the ill effects of bullying on individuals can cause larger-scale social issues, as well. This demonstrates the high degree of importance in identifying the root causes of bullying behavior as well as methods for mitigating or eliminating the negative effects of bullying on individuals and society at large, in order to develop better functioning people and institutions.


Some of these methods, especially for mitigating the negative effects of bullying on well-being, have already been identified in the literature discussed above. Developing an understanding of the root causes of bullying is beyond the scope of this literature review, though there are some indicators to be found in the research that could be of benefit for further research and for the beginning of certain practical applications. Other findings of… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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