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Understanding Bullying

INSHAPE NEWS MIND MATTERS

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Photo credit: Thomas Ricker, 2009: Bully 

Zoe Markopoulos -Psychologist (MAPS, CEDP)

Bullying is not a new phenomenon; however because of its high prevalence and harmful effects it has received increased research attention. It is a common experience among school-aged children. In Australia, approximately one in four grade four to year nine students report being bullied every few weeks or more in a school term. Bullying behaviour may be expressed differently between boys and girls. Boys may be more likely to engage in physical forms, while girls may be more likely to engage in verbal or social forms.

Effects of Bullying

Bullying can have harmful effects on the psychological and emotional wellbeing, and academic outcomes of the children involved. These children experience a broad range of problems, such as anxiety, depression, poor academic achievement and anti-social behaviour. The experience of bullying is also likely to contribute to the way in which children approach their relationships in life. For example, victims of bullying may be reluctant to trust their peers or withdraw from social situations in an attempt to avoid the pain that bullying inflicts.

Coping with Bullying

Children’s coping responses continue to play a significant role in dealing with bullying. It’s hard to distinguish which ways of coping with bullying are likely to be most effective. However, in general, the more successful strategies include seeking social or professional support and positive appraisal, while the less successful strategies include fighting back and passive or helpless behaviour. Bullying remains a prominent problem, despite a variety of intervention programs that have been developed.

Some ideas for adults to help children manage bullying include:

  • Having regular conversations about school life and any emerging issues.
  • Ensuring understanding that bullying is not tolerated at home or in any other environment.
  • Encouraging healthy, positive behaviour.
  • Discussing ways to increase confidence.
  • Looking at why the bullying is occurring and ways to reduce the behaviour.
  • Actively promoting and modelling respect for others.
  • Assuring support.

Image - Z MarkopoulosIn her professional practice, Zoe Markopoulos applies her psychological and educational expertise in the effective delivery of psychology services to children and families. She recognises the importance of fostering resilience and addressing the social, emotional and educational needs of students. Zoe predominately aligns her work with the principles and techniques of cognitive behaviour therapy, positive psychology and mindfulness. A significant part of her work involves psychological counselling and assessment, developing and implementing evidence-based programs, and consultation. Zoe is also interested in self-care activities to help maintain physical, mental and emotional health.

Zoe has contributed to academic publications focused on coping, bullying, anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, children and families. She is a member of the Australian Psychologist Society and is regularly involved with the College of Educational and Developmental Psychologists (Victoria), as a committee member. Zoe is currently completing the Psychology Board of Australia Registrar Program in Educational and Developmental Psychology.

Disclaimer: The information published in this column is based on each of the author’s own professional and personal knowledge and opinion. This information and opinion is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment of any manner. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding any medical condition and consult a qualified medical professional before beginning any nutritional or exercise program. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on InShape News.

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