They’re Being Bullied. But Are They Telling You About It?

They’re Being Bullied. But Are They Telling You About It?

Look out at the students in your classroom. Do you know for certain which students are being bullied? Having to deal with bullying is an unfortunate reality for many students. Today, students not only have to face the possibility of being bullied in person (traditional bullying), but also being bullied online (cyberbullying). Yet, authors Ylva Bjereld et al. note that parents and teachers are significant counter-forces to bullying. Not only do teachers and parents help victims cope with bullying, but they can help prevent future incidents and end current behaviors as well (347). Indeed, Bjereld et al. explain that when children communicate their experiences as victims of bullying to adults, especially parents, they are better able to manage the bullying and have fewer negative mental health effects, such as depression (347).

Understanding this, schools often encourage students to disclose matters of bullying to teachers and other adults on campus. But, according to Bjereld et al., “a large proportion of victims do not tell an adult about the victimization” (348). This may be because victims have a sense of shame or guilt over being bullied, because they feel that it is normal for students to be bullied, or because they are worried about how adults will react to their situation (348). Moreover, students who previously discussed their being bullied with an adult and who felt that they were not taken seriously or were not listen to often stopped disclosing their victimization to adults (348).

In their paper, “Do bullied children have poor relationships with their parents and teachers? A cross-sectional study of Swedish children,” Bjereld et al. investigate whether bullied children have the same quality of relationships with teachers and parents as non-bullied children. The data for their study came from the Swedish Health Behavior in School-aged Children (HBSC) survey, a part of the World Health Organization study. For this study, 6,971 children ages 11, 13, and 15 answered a series of questions about their experiences with bullying (both traditional and cyberbullying) and their relationships with their teachers and parents (348).

The Findings

  • 12.2% of children reported being occasionally bullied (349).
  • 5.5% of children reported being frequently bullied (349).
  • The majority of students who were frequently cyberbullied were also bullied face-to-face (349).
  • Boys and girls had equal levels of in-person bullying (349).

“[A]lmost twice as many girls as boys were cyberbullied” (349).

  • Bullied children had poor relationships with their parents and teachers compared to non-bullied children (349).
  • Bullied children were more likely to:
    • not feel confident that their teachers cared about them
    • feel that their family members did not listen to them
    • find it difficult to talk to their parents about things that worried them (349)

Bjereld et al. caution that simply encouraging students to disclose bullying is not sufficient. The results of their study show that bullied students more often have poor relationships with the adults who could help them and are not likely to talk to those adults about their victimization. If they do not discuss their victimization, they forgo opportunities for adults to help stop the situation.

“Previous research has shown that telling parents and teachers about victimization is effective and a central part in the work against bullying is thus built on the encouragement for children to disclose victimization. But this study has shown that victims’ relations are poor with the adults who potentially could help managing bullying” (350).

This article makes clear the importance of building positive, trusting relationships with students. Only then will students possibly feel comfortable disclosing matters of bullying and receive the help that they deserve.


Paper Title:  Do bullied children have poor relationships with their parents and teachers? A cross-sectional study of Swedish children

Paper Authors: Ylva Bjereld, Kristian Daneback, and Max Petzold (University of Gothenburg, Sweden)

Full Paper Link: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S019074091730052X

Published: Children and Youth Services Review, Volume 73, 2017, Pages 347-351


*Photo Credit: Thanks to Tim Gouw on Unsplash