What To Do When Your Teen is a Bully or Being Bullied

Research shows that bullying – for both the bully and the victim – can lead to psychological distress and even psychological illness. A recent article published in the Journal of the American Medical AssociationPsychiatry indicated that victims of bullying are at increased risk for emotional disorders in adulthood, and that bullies as well as victims of bullying are at the highest risk to think about and plan suicide.


The relationship between bullying and mental illnesses were confirmed in a study done by Duke University last spring, revealing that effects of bullying are long-lasting for not only the victim but also for the bully. The study monitored 1420 children, ages 9 to 16 over a period of several years to determine whether bullying could lead to psychiatric illness or suicide. The study found that the victims of bullying are prone to higher rates of agoraphobia, generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, in addition to thoughts of suicide. According to the study, those who were both bullies and victims were prone to panic disorder, agoraphobia, suicidal thoughts as well as major depressive disorder.


Because of the relationships between bullying and mental illness, it’s important that parents think first about the way that they might respond to bullying. For instance, if you uncover that your teen is the one who is bullying, you may want to at first punish your child. However, bullying and aggression might be the result of low self-esteem or a behavior disorder, such as attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or conduct disorder. Punishing a child for their bullying shouldn’t be as central as their psychological well-being.  Communicating that violence is wrong is an important part to parenting, and at the same time, securing the appropriate mental health support and treatment is just as important.


Also, it’s important to keep in mind that a bully often expresses aggression because he or she feels jealous, insecure, out of control, or simply, not good enough. As parents, perhaps a safe conversation can take place with your teen, if he or she is bullying someone else, so that these emotional and psychological issues can be addressed. Perhaps safely discussing the reasons behind a teen’s aggression can curtail displays aggression in the first place.


On the other hand, if you uncover that your teen is the one who is being bullied, you might also want to tend to his or her mental health, in addition to taking steps to ensure that the bullying comes to an end. The one is who being bullied is the target of a bully’s aggression. Often, the target feels as though he or she deserves the harsh treatment, that it’s her fault, or feels powerless. Teaching him or her to take back control in order to stop the bullying can at times be effective. However, it’s important to note that a target does not need to fight a bullying classmate on his or her own. Instead, a teen target can seek the assistance of parents, peers, or teachers. A target should share as much as possible about the bullying and, ideally, develop an action plan with an adult to bring it to an end. Furthermore, it’s important to know that there local, state, and federal laws that can facilitate a teen’s safety.


Bullying is the overt behavior of a teen to belittle a child, teen, or adult and to make that person feel inadequate. It can include harassment, physical harm, demeaning speech and efforts to ostracize that person. Bullying is an active behavior and is done with intention to harm another, whether physically or emotionally. There are many different types of bullying. These include cyber bullying, gay bullying, verbal bullying, text bullying, and female bullying.


Bullying continues to be a severe problem within schools across the United States. However, fortunately, there are many organizations working to prevent it and bring it to an end.