Schoolyard Bullying Can Also Be Harmful to Witnesses

Watching peers be victimized may increase risk of psychological issues such as anxiety

FRIDAY, Jan. 1 (HealthDay News) -- Bullying behavior may not just be harmful to its victims, it may also affect the young people who witness it, according to research published in the December issue of School Psychology Quarterly.

Ian Rivers, Ph.D., of Brunel University in Uxbridge, U.K., and colleagues analyzed data from 2,002 students aged 12 to 16 years attending schools in England. Students answered questions about recent bullying behavior they perpetrated, experienced, or witnessed. They also responded to questions about their physical symptoms and mental health.

Seeing their peers being victimized was associated with a higher risk of a variety of mental health issues, including depression, anxiety, and paranoid ideation. The authors found that watching bullying behavior can be psychologically harmful even for students who have not been bullied themselves.

"The current findings indicate a need for school principals, teachers, and school psychologists to be aware of the possible impact that witnessing bullying can have upon the mental health of their students. In addition to discussing actual victimization experiences, school psychologists might also discuss with students and with parents the emotional impact bullying can have upon those who witness it, and how it can affect the way in which they react to situations where others are victimized," Rivers and colleagues conclude.

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