Posted by: victoriapynchon | November 29, 2010

Bullying can be as harmful to a child’s brain as physical or sexual abuse, studies show.

An article from the Boston Globe about the adverse neurological effects of bullying on children and teenagers:

In the wake of several tragedies that have made bullying a high-profile issue, it’s becoming clear that harassment by one’s peers is something more than just a rite of passage. Bullied kids are more likely to be depressed, anxious, and suicidal. They struggle in school — when they decide to show up at all. They are more likely to carry weapons, get in fights, and use drugs.

But when it comes to the actual harm bullying does, the picture grows murkier. The psychological torment that victims feel is real. But perhaps because many of us have experienced this sort of schoolyard cruelty and lived to tell the tale, peer harassment is still commonly written off as a “soft” form of abuse — one that leaves no obvious injuries and that most victims simply get over. It’s easy to imagine that, painful as bullying can be, all it hurts is our feelings.

A new wave of research into bullying’s effects, however, is now suggesting something more than that — that in fact, bullying can leave an indelible imprint on a teen’s brain at a time when it is still growing and developing. Being ostracized by one’s peers, it seems, can throw adolescent hormones even further out of whack, lead to reduced connectivity in the brain, and even sabotage the growth of new neurons.

Read more HERE.



  1. First, I want to commend you on your blog. As a school board member, mother, and community member, I am very concerned about bullying. Many public school districts are bringing special education students back to district from private placements. In many cases, this works. But the school has to be ready. Below are some articles on the effects of bullying on special education students.

    Young people with intellectual disabilities attending mainstream and segregated schooling: perceived stigma, social comparison and future aspirations by G. Cooney, A. Jahoda, A. Gumley and F. Knott, Psychological Medicine, 2006

    “The mainstream group reported significant additional stigma at school. Negative treatment reported by the mainstreamed children was a serious source of concern. The most common experiences reported by the mainstream group were of ridicule or exclusion by their non-disabled peers. It remains unclear what longer-term impact such experiences would have on the emotional vulnerability of young people with learning disabilities and their ability to deal with the transition from school, particularly if they fail to realize their aspirations. Paying more attention to young people’s account of their experiences in mainstream schooling might help to address some of the significant problems this study has highlighted.”

    Pupils’ Views on Inclusion: Moderate Learning Difficulties and Bullying by Brahm Norwich and Narcie Kelly

    “Bullying was reported by 77% of special education students in regular school placements. Most pupils reported responding to bullying with a mixture of being hurt and trying to ignore it, but a large minority responded with upset and anger. Mainstream girls reported significantly more in-school bullying than boys. About half the pupils reported that this bullying was related to their learning difficulties. Earlier research has shown the links between being bullied and having learning difficulties. There were very few references to bullying by pupils in private school placements.”

    Bullying and Students with Special Needs: Some Legal Issues by Jerry Tanenbaum, Esq., Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis LLP for NJ Coalition for Bullying Awareness and Prevention

    “Schools can reasonably anticipate that students with disabilities are more likely to be targeted for harassment than students without disabilities.

    Davis v. Monroe Cty. Bd. of Ed., 526 U.S. 629 (1999). (a) A small drop in school performance is far more serious for a child who, because of his disabilities, is already struggling to achieve. (b) The District may be expected to respond to seemingly less severe forms of harassment and provide more in-depth remedial measures than it might for a non-special needs student.

    Current New Jersey State anti-harassment law, as compared to the federal Title IX construct, presents fewer hurdles for children who are bullied or harassed in school.”

  2. Thanks for the thoughtful comments and great resources, Judy. Back in the dark ages when I was in elementary school (late ’50s to early ’60s) we had special ed (deaf) students at the school who were NOT mainstreamed but who did mingle with the “general population.” I don’t recall bullying. What I do most memorably recall is that the deaf students were given gold and yellow sticky stars for good performance, which were STUCK TO THEIR FOREHEADS!!! I can’t imagine that this did not result in bullying. I simply never saw it. Thank goodness we’ve moved forward since those clueless years. Still, children smell blood in the water as quickly as do sharks and head straight for the jugular. Are anti-bullying programs in the schools WORKING?

  3. Victoria, my pleasure. Yes, I believe that the anti-bullying programs in our school system are making a difference. According to results of surveys conducted by the New Jersey State Bullying Coalition last year, students who look different, who are gay or lesbian, or who are Muslim, are most at risk for bullying. Knowing that, we all need to be proactive.

    – Judy Lindenberger

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