Increasing numbers of children and teenagers are the victim of severe bullying. The long term effects from this trauma can be severe and disabling. Today, the primary reason for near epidemic of bullying is the use of the internet and text messaging to vent excessive anger and ridicule, referred to as cyber-bullying. A tragic result from bullying in the school and through the internet was reported in 2010.
A 2014 study showed the long term psychological damage to confidence, the ability to feel safe and to trust and to hope. Those bullied in childhood had increased levels of psychological distress at ages 23 and 50. Victims of frequent bullying had higher rates of depression, anxiety disorders and suicidality nearly four decades after exposure. Childhood bullying victimization was associated with a lack of social relationships, economic hardship, and poor perceived quality of life at age 50 (Takizawa, R., et al. 2014). This study did not measure the serious conflicts of excessive anger in those bullied which interferes with the ability to resolve the emotional pain caused by the bullying and which is often misdirected at others. If the level of anger had been measured in these youth, it would have been significant and associated often with impulses for revenge.
New school based programs are urgently needed that teach youth how to address their anger by growth in virtues which current anti-bullying programs fail to address. Formation of youth in the virtue of forgiveness as the major way to master their anger is also needed in the home. Forgiveness education programs that have been demonstrated to empirically reduce anger in youth are discussed in the second edition of our forgiveness book, Forgiveness Therapy: An Empirical Guide for Resolving Anger and Restoring Hope, APA Books, November 2014.
While the diagnosis mental health professionald often identify in children and teenagers who are bullied is often adjustment disorder with anxiety or depression, we suggest to these children and their parents that a more accurate diagnosis would be a major peer disorder.
Factors contributing to bullying
Cultural, family and personal issues are contributing to an increase in the degree of bullying in communities and in schools. A leading cultural reason is what has been described as the epidemic of narcissism. An important book on this subject is The Epidemic of Narcissism: Living in an Age of Entitlement by psychologists J. Twenge and H. Campbell. Narcissism can be described as severe selfishness and predisposes children to treat others in an insensitive manner with a lack of respect and a disregard for the needs of other children. Severe selfishness interferes with the development of a healthy personality. Also, Dr. Paul Vitz's book, Psychology as Religion: The Cult of Self-Worship, describes the role of the mental health field in the development of selfishness in the culture. He explains how a philosophy of indulgent self-actualization now underlies much of today's psychotherapy. Another factor is the prevalent permissive parenting style in American families. Permissive parents want their children to be their friends and often lack the wisdom and the courage to correct selfish and angry behaviors. Their children overreact in anger at home and do the same outside the home. In addition, many children model after selfish parents that damages their ability to master their anger and to treat others in a respectful, sensitive manner. Also, selfish children, and adults, have an inflated sense of themselves that leads them to try to dominate others. The abandonment of character education in schools is another important contributor to the bullying problem. In the past character education involved teaching children the virtues that could help them to master their emotional and personality struggles such as anger and selfishness. For example, children were