The tragic consequences of bullying have become a regular part of the news cycle. In April, an eighth grade girl in Missouri and a sixth grade boy in Pennsylvania committed suicide. Bullying was an important factor, according to their families.
While such devastating cases understandably draw the most attention, they risk leaving the impression that bullying is an issue only in severe cases. In fact, bullying is pervasive and often causes harm. As awareness spreads that bullying is not just a childhood rite of passage but a significant public health issue, the demand for action has increased.
A breadth of actors, from federal agencies to state legislatures to schools, are grappling with how to address the problem. And now a new report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine – a leading independent research organization – provides critical insights into bullying’s consequences and what is needed for an effective response. I served on this study committee.
Understanding bullying’s impact
Contrary to traditional views of bullying as mere child’s play, research shows that bullying has significant short- and long-term adverse consequences for targets, perpetrators and others who witness bullying.