Bullying is an increasingly common problem that deeply affects children and adolescents. In Spain, it is estimated that 7.5% of boys and 4.3% of girls have been victims of bullying, according to a report by Amnesty International.
It is a serious problem because it not only leaves physical wounds but also emotional consequences. When children are subjected to constant humiliation and attacks, it is common for them to begin to lose interest in studies and their performance decreases, which can lead to a situation of school failure.
Bullying also tends to affect self-esteem and the perception of self-efficacy, giving rise to disorders such as post-traumatic stress or depression, the consequences of which can be very serious, even generating suicidal ideas. The emotional consequences of bullying are further aggravated in those children who do not have the psychological tools that allow them to deal with this type of situation. Unfortunately, these most vulnerable children often become the targets of abusers.
What exactly is bullying?
To understand bullying, it is important to clarify the situations in which it occurs. A specific discussion or fight between two children is not bullying. For bullying to occur, it is necessary for a child, adolescent or group to deliberately and systematically attack another with the intention of harming them, without the victim having done anything to generate that violence.
That means that bullying involves aggressive and humiliating behavior maintained over time. In addition, in cases of bullying there is generally an unequal relationship in which the victim is at a clear disadvantage because they are weaker or do not have the necessary resources to successfully stop the aggression, either because they believe they are unable to defend themselves or because you don’t know how to avoid bullying.
The psychosocial profile of the child who suffers bullying
There are some children who, due to their characteristics, are more vulnerable to bullying. This does not mean that they are guilty of the violence or that they have done something to justify it, but only that they are in a position of physical, psychological or social disadvantage that abusers can take advantage of.
The common factor for children who suffer bullying is that they have difficulty defending themselves, either because they do not have sufficient physical strength or self-confidence. In fact, often the victims of bullying are children who are younger, have a slim build, or have some type of disability. Other times they are very sensitive, nervous or passive children. Children belonging to minority groups are also often targeted by bullies as many cases of bullying also contain elements of racism and xenophobia.
However, on other occasions it is about children who are irritating or annoying to others, or who do not comply with the implicit norms that govern the group of peers. It is not unusual for children who get excellent grades or report problems to teachers to become victims of bullying.
A study carried out by Colombian psychologists with 582 students revealed that impulsiveness and loneliness are two factors that increase the risk of suffering from bullying. When children are unable to properly perceive and decode the emotions of others and act accordingly, they are likely to overreact.
If they are prone to outbursts of anger and perceive hostility where it does not exist, they will be more likely to be rejected by the circle of friends, which will end up isolating them, as other researchers have found. These children become unpopular as they lack the Emotional Intelligence necessary to integrate into the group, which normally acts as a protective factor against bullying.
Other children do not usually consider their peers with poor social and emotional skills as pleasant or trustworthy company, so they tend to avoid them. As a result, these children have fewer friends who can protect them and act as a “social shield.” In fact, social skills are considered another protective factor against bullying.
On the other hand, children who are very shy, anxious, easily embarrassed and have self-esteem issues can also be victims of bullying. These children usually have a very limited repertoire of social responses that often leads them to deploy unassertive and unpopular solutions to conflicts with other classmates that end up aggravating the problem.
In this sense, another study carried out at the Autonomous University of Madrid revealed that only 17% of the victims of bullying respond assertively, resorting to dialogue as a way to solve the bullying. Most of the people who suffered bullying during their school years recognized that they preferred to avoid or ignore the situation in the hope that it would go away on its own because they lacked the necessary conflict coping skills or did not dare to ask other children for help, parents or teachers.
Fight bullying in the classroom
Bullying is a complex phenomenon in which not only the victim and the bully are involved, but also other students and the school itself. In fact, the role of teachers is decisive when dealing with a case of bullying in the classroom. Setting healthy boundaries, managing conflict intelligently, and working with other children and parents is key to eradicating this problem.
On the other hand, enhancing Emotional Intelligence and social skills in children who lack these skills is a good strategy to provide them with the tools they need to deal with interpersonal conflicts, not only at school but in the broader field of life. life.
Teachers need to be trained to recognize behavior problems at school so that they can intervene quickly. In this sense, programs such as the Master’s Degree in Prevention and Psychological Intervention in Behavior Problems at School are very useful, as they provide teachers with the necessary knowledge to detect bullying early and implement comprehensive intervention plans aimed at reducing violence in their classrooms. In this way, schools can become the inclusive, developing and safe place that children need.