Can Bullying Affect Child Development?

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Bullying is a big problem for child development. According to the National Centre for Educational Statistics, about 29% of students ages 12-18 reported being bullied at school. Not only will the consequences of bullying cause short-term effects like anxiety, depression, and poor self-esteem but, the effects of bullying can last into adulthood as well. It is vitally important that parents educate themselves on how they can help their children cope with this type of trauma and its effects on a child’s development.

In this article, we will highlight the most common forms of bullying that child often face. This allows you to spot early signs of bullying and gives you the knowledge to inform and protect your child. We will also provide information regarding the detrimental effects of bullying on child development. To conclude, we provide some useful tips on how, as a parent, you can support your child.


Anyone can face bullying at any point in their life. For many children, it isn’t just perpetrated by peers at school. Bullying can happen in the home, within the family, at school, and in public. Bullies can be their peers at schools, parents, family members, and even people not familiar with the child. There are various different motives for several different types of acts of bullying.

The consequences of bullying against children are severely detrimental. The long-term effects are apparent in mental health, the confidence of the child, and their self-esteem. Bullying early in life, during critical stages of child development can shape an individual’s life. Confident outgoing children can become shielded and anxious. Later health implications can even be caused by prior effects of bullying. It is vital that parents and carers know what to look out for and how to approach the situation to ensure the safety and security of their children.

Common types of bullying having an effect on child development

In order to brace the discussion within your child, it is important to understand that there are several forms of bullying. These can each have a different impact on a child’s behaviour and emotion. They will also have an individual impact on the child’s development. As a parent, you may also struggle to identify these forms of bullying in combination, what might appear to be the main issue could be overshadowing several other forms of abuse.

· Name Calling and Verbal Bullying

This is probably the most prevalent form of bullying. It can be casual or purposeful and is often used to hurt someone’s feelings. Much unlike physical bullying, verbal bullying can often occur online via social media platforms where anonymity provides safety for the bully to say whatever they please without being held accountable for their actions. This makes this type of bullying extremely dangerous because there are very few repercussions.

· Threats

This includes threats of violence, blackmail, extortion, anything that will cause fear in another person. This can be seriously detrimental to child development. Constant threats of violence or exploitation can cause anxiety, shame and even depression.

· Taunting

Taunting is typically verbal bullying in the form of teasing or making sarcastic comments. This type of bullying will affect a child’s self-esteem and confidence. It can affect their self-image, negatively shaping their personality in years to come.

· Social Isolation

This is done through exclusion, refusing to accept someone’s friendship, or even no longer acknowledging them. Social isolation is known to cause severe symptoms of depression, anxiety, and isolation. This affects normal child development and prevents a child from receiving peer attention required for healthy social development.

· Discrimination

Any kind of derogatory comments or generalization that singles out a person for being different can be considered discrimination. This type of bullying can be influenced by prejudice from an individual or groups of bullies. The victim may have been selected based on race, class, sexuality, gender, disability, religion, and several more factors. In certain cases of childhood bullying, there may not be an apparent reason for bullying. Peers may identify a victim through a shared belief or agreement to isolate the specific child.

· Physical violence

This type of bullying can be demonstrated through hitting, kicking, pulling hair, or even scratching. Physically hurting a child will have lasting effects on their development and can even cause long-lasting injuries.

Effects of Bullying on Child Development

There are many studies that show links between bullying and psychological disorders such as depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts. Children who suffer from bullying might feel unsafe at school and unable to learn. If your child is being bullied, it’s important that you help them cope with the trauma so they can get back into doing what they love.

· Consequences to Mental Health

Childhood is generally considered to be a period of innocence, discovery, and development. A child that struggles with their mental health as a result of bullying is not given the opportunity to explore this innocence. Anxiety and depression are the key concerns when discussing the effects of bullying on children’s development. A child can easily lose their sense of self-worth or become harboured with fear of abuse when they have been a victim of bullying.

This can be heart-breaking to see within any child, especially your own. The long-lasting effects will influence their personality, their coping skills and their self-conscious beliefs. Childhood is a period in which children learn a lot about themselves, the world and the beliefs of people around them. If these beliefs are tainted by other people’s actions, child development can be seriously impacted.

· Effects on Learning

It is important to consider the effect of a child’s learning whilst they are suffering the abuse of bullying. Learning is a core value within a child’s development. To weigh the child down with stress and anxiety will severely hinder their ability to learn. Concentration is easily lost when concerned about leaving the classroom or avoiding abuse. Not only are is the development of a child’s mental health impacted, but their growth and learning will take a toll as well. This can have devastating effects on the child within their future, causing further issues in regard to self-worth and confidence.

· Emotional Impact and Self-Harm

One of the largest concerns for any child facing bullying is the impact on their psyche and how they process the trauma. We have adamantly discussed that for many children, bullying can seriously affect their mental health. To process this, some children could turn to self-harm. If the situation is seriously affecting a child’s emotions, adequate support and security are vital to protect their development and mental health.

What can you do as a parent?

It is important to know key red flags and stop bullying whenever possible. This means that it is vital for parents to educate themselves and step in before a situation becomes drastic. Here are some key things you can do as a parent to support a child being bullied.

· Teach children how to effectively respond when being bullied.

Of course, it is not the responsibility of any victim of bullying to take control of their situation. However, it is incredibly important that children know how to handle the experience of being bullied so that it doesn’t harmfully affect their development. It is important to discuss with your child why people hold certain beliefs. This can be useful to allow your child not to take the bullying personally. It is also key to encourage them to communicate with people they trust. This will provide the social support needed for healthy child development.

· Work Alongside the School to Tackle the Issue

If your child is being bullied during school hours or by someone who attends the school, there are actions the school can take to support your child. Even if the bullying isn’t associated with another pupil from the school, it is important to let the school know when your child may require additional support to protect their development.

Action by the school should be subtle in their first approach. This should be done to avoid further victimisation but enough to ensure that bullying is prevented. In more concerning cases, disciplinary action should be taken against aggressors. Families should be involved and informed of the situation and action should occur to prevent further abuse to the victim. The school should also do anything in their power to prevent bullying outside of school hours.

· Consider removing the child from the situation

Whilst this could seem unfair to your child, this final solution might be the most effective for eliminating abuse. Whether this involves transferring schools, preventing the child from seeing a certain individual or stopping them from going to certain locations. This can be a particularly drastic measure and the subsequent effects that the action could have on the child’s development should be assessed. However, if these solutions can prevent subsequent abuse, it may be the most effective action you can take as a parent.

Final Thoughts

It can be hard for any parent to identify and deal with their child being bullied. Knowing the effects on child development can be especially devastating if this is an ongoing problem within your child’s life. The most important thing a parent can do is to offer emotional support as required and take any action you can to prevent further victimisation. In certain cases, highlighting the issue can aggravate a situation. It is vitally important that all remedies are going to prevent or eliminate further abuse, rather than instigating increased trauma.

As a parent, be prepared to reach out to the child’s school, trusted family members and peers that can offer additional support and guidance for you and your child. Encouraging healthy child development can seem impossible when encountering bullying but offering safety and security is the first step to regaining a healthy development.