Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Witnesses to bullying may face more mental health risks than bullies and victims

Date:
December 15, 2009
Source:
American Psychological Association
Summary:
Students who watch as their peers endure the verbal or physical abuses of another student could become as psychologically distressed, if not more so, by the events than the victims themselves, new research suggests.

Students who watch as their peers endure the verbal or physical abuses of another student could become as psychologically distressed, if not more so, by the events than the victims themselves, new research suggests.

Related Articles


Bullies and bystanders may also be more likely to take drugs and drink alcohol, according to the findings, which are reported in the December issue of School Psychology Quarterly, published by the American Psychological Association.

"It's well documented that children and adolescents who are exposed to violence within their families or outside of school are at a greater risk for mental health problems than those children who are not exposed to any violence," said the study's lead author, Ian Rivers, PhD. "It should not be a surprise that violence at school will pose the same kind of risk."

Researchers surveyed 2,002 students ages 12 to 16 at 14 public schools in England. The students were presented with a list of numerous bullying behaviors, such as name-calling, kicking, hitting, spreading rumors and threatening violence. The students indicated whether they had committed, witnessed or been the victim of any of these behaviors during the previous nine-week school term and, if so, how often. The majority, 63 percent, said they witnessed peers being bullied. 34 percent of respondents said they had been victims and 20 percent said they had been perpetrators. Approximately 28 percent said they were completely uninvolved in any bullying episodes. Girls reported seeing bullying more than boys.

The students also answered whether they experienced certain symptoms of psychological distress, such as feelings of depression, anxiety, hostility and inferiority. They also were asked if they had ever tried or used cigarettes, alcohol and other drugs.

Students who witnessed acts of bullying were more likely to report greater psychological distress than those students who were bullies or victims, according to the results. This was the case even for students who had not been victims themselves, although being both a witness and a victim did also significantly predict mental health problems.

"It is possible that those students who had been victimized at different times may be experiencing it all over again psychologically," said Rivers. "Meanwhile, those who are witnesses may worry that they, too, will be the bully's target sometime in the future and that causes great distress and anxiety."

Previous research has shown that students who witness acts of bullying, but are not directly involved, feel guilty for not interceding on the victim's behalf, which may help explain the higher levels of mental distress.

Rivers, along with his co-author Paul Poteat, PhD, of Boston College, hope this study will encourage schools to be more aware of the possible impact simply witnessing acts of bullying can have upon the mental health of their students. "School psychologists can help students realize that they don't have to be a bystander. They can be a defender," added Rivers.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by American Psychological Association. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Rivers et al. Observing bullying at school: The mental health implications of witness status.. School Psychology Quarterly, 2009; 24 (4): 211 DOI: 10.1037/a0018164

Cite This Page:

American Psychological Association. "Witnesses to bullying may face more mental health risks than bullies and victims." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 December 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091214121449.htm>.
American Psychological Association. (2009, December 15). Witnesses to bullying may face more mental health risks than bullies and victims. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091214121449.htm
American Psychological Association. "Witnesses to bullying may face more mental health risks than bullies and victims." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091214121449.htm (accessed November 22, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Health & Medicine News

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

WFP: Ebola Risks Heightened Among Women Throughout Africa

WFP: Ebola Risks Heightened Among Women Throughout Africa

AFP (Nov. 21, 2014) Having children has always been a frightening prospect in Sierra Leone, the world's most dangerous place to give birth, but Ebola has presented an alarming new threat for expectant mothers. Duration: 00:37 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Your Genes Be The Reason You're Single?

Could Your Genes Be The Reason You're Single?

Newsy (Nov. 21, 2014) Researchers in Beijing discovered a gene called 5-HTA1, and carriers are reportedly 20 percent more likely to be single. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Milestone Birthdays Can Bring Existential Crisis, Study Says

Milestone Birthdays Can Bring Existential Crisis, Study Says

Newsy (Nov. 21, 2014) Researchers find that as people approach new decades in their lives they make bigger life decisions. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ebola: Life Without School in Guinea

Ebola: Life Without School in Guinea

AFP (Nov. 21, 2014) Following the closure of schools and universities in Guinea because of the Ebola virus, students look for temporary work or gather in makeshift classrooms to catch up on their syllabus. Duration: 02:14 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins