Recent Research on Bullying

New research dispels popular myth that a bully’s words will never hurt you.  Research by Dr. Stephen Joseph a psychologist at the University of Warwick into bullying at Secondary Schools dispels the well-known saying “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me”.

Contrary to popular belief the study reveals that verbal-victimisation has aparticular impact o­n the victim’s feeling of self-worth, and that name-calling can significantly reduce self-esteem. In fact, verbal abuse can have more impact upon victims’ self-worth than physical attacks, such as punching, or attacks o­n property, such as stealing or the destruction of belongings.

The study into bullying and posttraumatic stress in adolescents assessed 331 school pupils in England and reveals that as many as 40% were bullied at some time during their schooling. It suggests that one third of bullied children may suffer from clinically significant levels of posttraumatic stress – so rather than helping to toughen up school pupils, bullying could seriously affect their mental health.

The research paper entitled “Peer- Victimization and Posttraumatic Stress in Adolescents” examines the levels of posttraumatic stress experienced and the impact of bullying on the self-worth of victims. Bullying is stressful and can affect adolescents both emotionally and physically, and the results indicate that different forms of abuse have distinct effects on victims.

To analyze the effects of different types of aggression a “Victim Scale” was used to assess the experience of physical victimization, verbal victimization, social manipulation and attacks on property. All types of bullying result in lower self-esteem, but social manipulation, such as excluding the victim from taking part in games, is more likely to lead to posttraumatic stress, and verbal taunts typically lead to lower self-worth.

The study also suggests that verbal bullying or social manipulation can lead to victims feeling helpless and that they lack control over their own feelings and actions. Those who feel that power and control lie with the bully, rather than internally, are much more likely to suffer from posttraumatic stress or lower self-worth.

Dr. Stephen Joseph, from the University of Warwick, said: “This study reveals that bullying and particularly name calling can be degrading for adolescents. Posttraumatic stress is an anxiety disorder that can develop after exposure to a frightening event or ordeal in which physical harm occurred or was threatened, and research clearly suggests that it can be caused by bullying.

“It is important that peer victimization is taken seriously as symptoms such as insomnia, anxiety and depression are common amongst victims and have a negative impact on psychological health.”


Michael Sherman, David Britton, and Roberta Lester-Britton all specialize in working with children that have suffered from bullying.

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Dr. Gnap

Dr. Gnap is a family practice physician and behavioral medicine specialist in suburban Chicago.  Dr. Gnap developed the Inner Control™ Program in 1970 and has worked with thousands of people to improve and correct medical, emotional, behavioral and learning problems including performance.  He started the Inner Control program because so many patients asked, “what more can be done along with traditional treatment methods?”

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