In addition to the various ways in which school-age bullies are and continue to be dangerous to their peers and society at large, research also indicates that bullies report feelings of depression, suicidal ideation, and suicidal behavior. In a study by Swearer and colleagues (2001) on the psychosocial correlates of bullying and victimization, the bullies and bully-victims reported the highest levels of depression. An important note on this finding, though, is that the bullies in the study endorsed both extremes on the depression measure: While many indicated that they were depressed, many others indicated that they were not. It seems that some bullies, but not others, fall into a subgroup of aggressive children who are both aggressive and depressed.
Dangers of the Bully-Victim Status
Students who are both bullies and victims of bullies seem to be at particularly high-risk for short- and long-term problems since they experience the troubles associated with both groups. As bullies, they tend to smoke more than their peers and perform poorly in school. But, unlike other bullies, they also experienced problems typical of victims -- such as trouble developing friendships and loneliness. In fact, a report on school shootings conducted by the Secret Service revealed the following:
"Almost three-quarters of the attackers felt persecuted, bullied, threatened, attacked, or injured by others prior to the incident . . . Bullying was not a factor in every case, and clearly not every child who is bullied in school will pose a risk for targeted violence in school. Nevertheless, in a number of the incidents of targeted school violence studied, attackers described being bullied in terms that suggested these experiences approached torment."
In the study mentioned above by Swearer and colleagues, the bully-victims were both more depressed and experienced greater physical symptoms of anxiety than the other subgroups. This is consistent with other studies that reveal the bully-victim group to be the most psychologically impaired of those involved in bullying.
Nansel, T. R., Overpeck, M., Pilla, R. S., Ruan, W. J., Simons-Morton, B., & Scheidt, P. (2001). Bullying Behaviors among US Youth: Prevalence and Association with Psychosocial Adjustment. Journal of the American Medical Association, 285 (16), pp. 2094-2100.
Olweus, D. (2002). Bully Prevention: Research and Strategies. Presentation audiotaped at the 2nd National Technical Assistance Meeting: Leave No Child Behind, U.S. Department of Education, Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools, Washington, DC, August. [A.V.E.R. Associates, 6974 Ducketts Lane, Elkridge, MD 21075; 410-796-8940].
Olweus, D., Limber, S., & Mihalic, S. (1999). Bullying Prevention Program. In D.S. Elliott (Series Ed.), Blueprints for Violence Prevention: Book Nine. Boulder, CO: Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence.
Swearer, S. M., Song, S. Y., Cary, P. T., Eagler, J. W., & Mickelson, W. T. (2001). Psychosocial Correlates in Bullying and Victimization: The Relationship Between Depression, Anxiety, and Bully/Victim Status. Co-published simultaneously in: Journal of Emotional Abuse, 2(2/3), 95-121 and R. A. Geffner, M. Loring, & C. Young (Eds.), Bullying Behavior: Current Issues, Research, and Interventions. Binghamton, NY: Haworth Press, Inc.
Vossekuil, B., Fein, R. A., Reddy, M., Borum, R., & Modzeleski, W. (2002). The Final Report and Findings of the Safe School Initiative: Implications for the Prevention of School Attacks in the United States. Available on-line at: www.secretservice.gov/ntac/ssi_final_report.pdf. Retrieved January, 2004.