Dr. Luis Hernández Bocaletti
Medical Specialist in Psychiatry and Psychology
of Children, Teenagers and Adults.
MULTIMEDICA VISTA HERMOSA
Bullying (also known as school harassment) is any form of psychological, verbal or physical abuse generated repeatedly among students. Frequently, the dominant type of violence is the emotional type and is found primarily in school classrooms. Protagonists of bullying cases are usually boys and girls in early adolescence (12-15 years old), being the percentage of girls in the role of victims slightly higher. In the last few years we have observed a certain tendency for it to appear at a younger age (7-12 years old). Bullying is a species of repetitive, systematic torture, in which the child aggressor hurts the victim, often with the silence, indifference and complicity of other classmates.
The abused child is then physical and emotionally exposed to the abusive child; as consequence, generating a series of psychological sequels. It is common for the victim child to live terrorized with the idea of attending school and to be very nervous, sleepless, sad and lonely in his daily life. In some cases, the situation is so tough that it might bring on thoughts of self-aggression and even suicide. On occasion, the child that develops harassment behavior towards others is seeking to obtain recognition, attention, and admiration which he lacks in his family life, coming to learn a model of interpersonal relationships based on exclusion and disparagement of others. With much frequency the boy or girl who harasses another classmate is usually quickly surrounded with a crowd or group of harassers that come together unanimously in solidarity to the harassing behavior against the victim. They would not do it as individuals, but the anonymity offered by the group makes it easier.
Child and teenager psychiatry identifies, in bullies, the existence of a permissive family psychodynamic. This dynamic might have caused them not to properly interiorize the principle of humanity: The rights of a person must be harmonized with those of others. The psychopathological consequence is the difficulty to put oneself in the shoes of others, caused by a lack of solidarity linked to a Self that is developed at the expense of others, who are considered mere instruments ready to serve. Bullies have a very low threshold of frustration. This reiterated attitude is creating a personality with strong sociopathic traits.
It is estimated that simultaneous intervention over individual, family and socio-cultural factors, is the only possible way to prevent bullying. Prevention can be done at different levels. Primary prevention is the parents’ responsibility (promote social, cultural, religious tolerance, etc.). Communication media must also promote the culture of tolerance and solidarity. Secondary prevention is the concrete measures taken by the affected population: The need for personal and/or family psychiatric treatment depending on the case. Teachers must be trained with the appropriate skills for prevention, identification and resolution of school conflicts.
Finally, tertiary prevention measures would be the psychiatric help for children that have already suffered bullying (child victims as well as bullies). The therapeutic commitment is extended to the parents, and occasionally to the siblings.