Bullying in America

Bullying in America




Bullying in America


For decades now, America has struggled to deal with the issue of bullying. Mainly affecting children in middle school, bullying is a widespread and underreported problem that threatens the safety of all students in the institutions involved. Research has revealed that the practice causes a great deal of mental, emotional and physical harm leaving both the bully and the victim with long-lasting effects. Through these effects, bullying affects the lives of the parties involved making it likelier for them to be victimized in other ways or commit serious crimes in the future. The impact that bullying has on the lives of children along with the possible dangers that could come out of the practice have made it necessary to study bullying and understand the complex dynamics surrounding the issue.

Problem Statement

Bullying is a critical problem in the United States that contributes to the occurrence of mental health problems in adolescents. Bullying and mental health problems are both serious issues that need to be investigated. The possibility of a connection between the two phenomena implies that solving the bullying crisis could help reduce the incidence of mental health problems in adolescents.

Rationale for the Research

The main aim of this study is to show that there is a connection between bullying and mental health problems in adolescents. Bullying and the deteriorating mental health of Americans are both worrying trends for the country and the possibility of a connection between the two means that it may be possible to reduce the incidence and prevalence of the latter by dealing with bullying in a convincing way. Another reason why this study is important is that it is related to larger issues involving bullying and mental health. Firstly, researchers have shown that bullying may be related to some school shootings such as the Columbine Massacre. This means that dealing with bullying may help make schools safer for children. The second issue relates to the increasing burden placed on the national healthcare and welfare system by mental health issues. People suffering from diseases such as depression, bipolar disorders and anxiety are becoming increasingly reliant on medication to help them deal with their problems. Reducing the occurrence of these diseases in adolescents could help ease the burden that is on the national healthcare budget.

Statement of the Research Objectives

The objectives of this research are to identify the connection between bullying and the development of mental health problem in adolescents and to determine whether the reduction of bullying incidences can help lower the prevalence and incidence of mental health problems.


People who go through bullying in their childhood are much more likely to develop mental health problems when they go through puberty. If incidences of bullying are dealt with when a person is still experiencing the problem then there is a decreased likelihood of the person developing serious mental health problems in their adolescence.

Definition of Terms

            For the purposes of this study, mental health problems will refer to any disorders that affect the mood, behavior and thinking of a person (Evans & Annenberg Foundation Trust, 2005). Examples of mental illnesses include depression, eating disorders, anxiety disorders and addictive behaviors. The study defines bullying as any act that involves attacks of a physical, psychological or verbal nature or intimidation and coercion that is carried out against a person who is not capable of defending themselves because they are physically weaker, lack psychological resilience or are outnumbered (Sampson & United States, 2008). The paper will use the term ‘cyber bullying’ to refer to the sending and posting of messages and images intended to harm another person through internet websites, social media and digital communication devices (Hunter, 2012). Cyber bullying has recently come under a lot of scrutiny from the authorities following high profile incidences that have resulted in suicides and legal cases. The term victim will refer to anybody who has been subjected to any form of bullying.


Bullying and mental health issues are both critical problems that need to be solved in the United States. By dealing with bullying, it might be possible to reduce the incidence of mental illnesses within adolescents in the US. It is necessary to carry out extensive research into the issue of bullying to try to establish whether the connection between the tow is as strong as it appears to be at first glance.

Literature Review

Scholars have carried out extensive research into the issue of bullying in an attempt to explore the dynamics surrounding it. Studies have been carried out to establish the reasons, effects and solutions of the problem. Juvonen, Graham and Schuster (2003) argued that bullying and being bullied are considered health problems because they cause adjustment problems in both the bully and the victim. Their findings revealed that the repercussions are fewer on the bullies, while the victims suffer from emotional instability and social marginalization. Juvonen et al. (2003) also revealed that victims of bullying were far more likely to suffer from depression, social anxiety and feelings of loneliness than the bullies or other peers.

Klomek, Marrocco, Kleinman, Schonfeld and Gould (2007) and Smokowski and Kopasz (2005) found a positive correlation between bullying and mental diseases through their research. Klomek et al. (2007) carried out a study that assessed the link between bullying and depression and suicide in adolescents. They established that extensive exposure to bullying often led to a high risk of depression and suicidality (Klomek et al., 2007). The findings of Smokowski and Kopasz (2005) were similar in that they showed a likelihood of developing enduring harmful effects, some of which are related to their mental health. However, they also revealed that depression could make a person more likely to be bullied because of their passivity (Smokowski & Kopasz, 2005). Swearer-Napolitano (2008) made a similar argument, claiming that there is a correlation between bullying and depression. Victims of bullying often succumb to depression because of the trauma. Additionally, depression in some ways contributes to a person being bullied and bullying someone (Swearer-Napolitano, 2008).

Kaltiala-Heino, Frojd and Marttunen (2010) studied similar links between bullying and depression. Their research tried to find out whether involvement in bullying in school could predict the onset of depression. They discovered that being a victim a bully and even being ostracized by peers were linked to depression in boys. Involvement in bullying in fifteen-year-old boys was an indicator of depression occurring two years later. The results indicated similar trends in girls of the same age.


The research conducted in this study will entail both qualitative and quantitative methods. Qualitative methods will be used for the main part of the study. Data will be collected from secondary sources, which will mostly include previous research on bullying, its dynamics and effects. Using these secondary sources will allow the study to borrow from researchers who had access to a wider demographic. The study will use quantitative methods to add substance to the overall research. Data will be collected using questionnaires that probe the extent of bullying and mental health problems in a specified study group.


The quantitative aspect of this research will involve students from a local high school aged between fourteen and seventeen. The researchers will select one hundred and fifty boys and girls (75 each) through random sampling. The parents and teachers of the students will be briefed on all aspects of the study and made to understand that the nature of the research and their children’s involvement. Parents of the children selected will also be encouraged to help them fill in the questionnaires. Children who are denied permission by their parents will be removed from the study and replaced by randomly selected participants.

Research Design

            The study will use one questionnaire, divided into two parts, to collect the data that it needs. One part will enquire student involvement in bullying as victims while the second part will investigate involvement as aggressors. The researchers will compose the questions on the forms and distribute them themselves with assistance from staff working at the school. A set of criteria will be developed to explain the different kinds of treatment that can be considered bullying and those that do not. This will help distinguish bullying from one of incidences of aggression or violence. The second set of data will also be analyzed using a specific set of criteria. These criteria will help sort out actual bullies from people with aggressive personalities or sporadic violent tendencies.

Instrumentation and Data Collection Plans

`           The questionnaire will contain questions that try to find out whether the participants have bullied or been bullied. The first part of the questionnaire will collect information on bullying by asking students questions to find out whether they have been subjected to any kind of treatment that could be interpreted as bullying. The second part will collect information on that investigates their involvement in incidents of bullying as the aggressors.

Proposed Analysis of the Data

The data collected should help divide the students into four distinct categories victims, bullies, bully-victims and students who are not involved in the practice in any way. The majority of students should be those who are completely uninvolved, while the smallest category should be that of bully victims. The victims of bullying will most likely indicate that they had negative reactions from their experiences, while bullies may state that they were largely indifferent to the plight of their victims. They may also be reluctant to reveal negative feelings attached to the activity such as sadness and guilt. Bully-victims are likely to show mixed reactions, exhibiting signs of sadness (or depression), confusion and indifference.

The study will use three main variables, bullies, victims and mental health illnesses. The first two variables will both be linked with the third with the bullies and victims being independent variables while mental illnesses acts as a dependent one. Computer software will not be used in the study, the data collected will be analyzed manually by the research team. The validity of the measurement will be assessed by checking to see whether the sample roughly represented the school’s demographics. The reliability of the samples will be measured by looking for consistency in the responses to the questionnaires.

Implications and Limitations

The researchers are assuming that by taking a random sample, they will have a group of participants that roughly resembles the demographic of the schools. Another assumption that the team is making is that the questionnaire they will use will cover the issues concerning bullying in a conclusive and thorough manner. For the questionnaire to work, researchers are also assuming that the responses that the students will provide will be honest.

One limitation of the research is that there is a high likelihood of the respondents lying in the questionnaires because they fear reprisals and they want to protect themselves or their friends. Another limitation of the research will come from the fact that other people may influence the answers of the respondents. For instance friends filling out the forms together will influence each other on what they write down.

Time Schedule

The research should take about three weeks to be completed. The first three days will be used to prepare the material needed such as questionnaires and consent forms. After this, the researchers will use a period of ten days to collect data using the questionnaire. The remaining eight days will be used analyzing the data collected and carrying out further research using internet resources.


            The researcher will need two assistants (one male and one female) to help prepare the questionnaires, deal with the children and analyze the data collected.


Resource Cost in US Dollars
Laptop and internet access $700
Assistants’ salaries $2500
Printing resources $350
Printing paper $70
Transport $115
Total expenditure $3735



            The researchers will need to use a properly equipped library that provides access to online journals for the qualitative research. The team will also need a laptop with a good internet connection to carry out the qualitative research. For the quantitative research, the study will need to have a means of transport to travel to the school where the data is being collected. The researchers will need a batch of printing papers and printers to prepare the questionnaires and consent forms.

Needed Assurances and Clearances

Student Consent Form

Dear student,

The [institution] would like to invite you to participate in a study about Bullying in America. This study will be taking place between [date] and [date] at the [name of school]. If you agree to be a part of this study, a team of researchers will provide you with a questionnaire that will ask you questions about bullying in your school. The information you provide will be completely private and the researchers will not give it to anybody else. However, if you inform us that you feel like hurting yourself or other people, we will have to tell somebody else for the purposes of your safety and that of the people around you. This study is voluntary and participants are allowed to withdraw after the research has started. If you have any questions about the nature of the research, you can raise them with the researchers who will be dealing with you.

Student’s assent

I have read and understood the conditions stated above and I understand what the study is about, what it will involve and my role in it. I also understand that the research is voluntary and that I can withdraw at any time.

Name:                                                                                      Signature:

Parent’s assent

I have read the conditions stated above and I understand what the research entails and what my child’s role in it is. I also understand that involvement is voluntary and that I can withdraw my child from the study whenever I like.

Name:                                                                                      Signature:


Questions for Surveys/Questionnaires/Interviews

Name:                                                 Age:                                                    Grade:

  1. Do you know what bullying is?

If yes, please describe it in your own words.

  1. Have you ever been bullied?

If yes, continue with question three

If no, jump to question nine.

  1. How recently were you bullied?

[ ]         within the past week

[ ]         within the past month

[ ]         within the past year

[ ]         more than a year ago

  1. How many people bullied you?

[ ] one person

[ ] two to four people

[ ] more than four people

  1. How were you bullied?

[ ] name calling

[ ] hit, bitten, choked, punched, kicked, tripped, pushed, slapped,

[ ] threatened with physical force

[ ] sent abusive, provocative, humiliating or cruel messages on your phone, email address or social media account

[ ] had you property stolen or damaged

[ ] forced to do something you did not want to do

If you were not bullied in any of the ways described above, please explain how you were bullied

  1. Where were you bullied?
  2. Did you tell anyone about any of the incidences?

If yes, whom did you tell and what did they do?

If no, how did you deal with the incident?

  1. How does being bullied make you feel?

[ ] sad or depressed

[ ] humiliated/ embarrassed

[ ] lonely

[ ] scared

[ ] does not bother me

[ ] like a part of the group

  1. What is your opinion on bullying?
  2. Do you think teachers and parents do enough to deal with the problem?
  3. Have you ever bullied someone?
  4. Have you ever seen someone being bullied?

If yes, how did it make you feel?

Did you do anything to stop it?

  1. Is there anything else you would like to add?



Evans, D. L., & Annenberg Foundation Trust. (2005). Treating and preventing adolescent mental health disorders: What we know and what we don’t know : a research agenda for improving the mental health of our youth. New York: Oxford University Press.

Hunter, N. (2012). Cyber bullying. Chicago, Ill: Heinemann Library.

Juvonen, J., Graham, S. & Schuster M.A. (2003). Bullying among young adolescents: The strong, the weak and the troubled. Pediatrics, 112, 1231-1237.

Kaltiala-Heino, R., Frojd, S. & Marttunen, M. (2010). Involvement in bullying and depression in a 2-year follow-up in middle adolescence. Eur Child Adolesc. Psychiatry, 19, 45-55.

Klomek, A. B., Marrocco, F., Kleinman, M., Schonfeld, I. S. & Gould, M. S. (2007). Bullying, depression and suicidality in adolescents. J Am Acad Child Adolesc. Psychiatry, 46(1), 40-49.

Sampson, R., & United States. (2008). Bullying in schools. Washington, DC: U.S. Dept. of Justice, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services.

Smokowski, P. R., & Holland Kopasz, K. (2005). Bullying in school: An overview of types, effects, family characteristics, and intervention strategies. Children & Schools, 27(2), 101-110.

Swearer-Napolitano, S.M. (2008). Bullying and depression. Educational Psychology Papers and Publications Paper, 134, 1-4.


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