The potential links between bullying and violence


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The Columbine High School massacre that took place on April 20, 1999, which resulted in the deaths of 12 students and one teacher, was, at the time, the deadliest school shooting in United States history.

The Columbine massacre was perpetrated by students Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, and an investigation of the shooting suggested that bullying may have contributed to the shooters’ decision to open fire on their classmates and teachers.

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In his journal, Harris illustrated reasons for his desire to kill, and “revenge from being teased” was among them. However, Harris also wanted to see himself as “the law,” according to his writings, indicating that he may have been an aggressor at some point as well.

While one cannot always connect bullying and extreme violence, a correlation can sometimes be made. Bullying is a growing concern in schools, and research into possible connections between bullying and other forms of youth violence is ongoing.

A recent study published in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence indicates that bullying and other health-risk behaviors can happen together (i.e. substance use, violence and school failure), and more education is needed to address the broad range of youth problems in schools.

According to Dorothy Espelage, a professor of psychology at the University of Florida, bullies have a “continuum of perpetration.” Espelage says that the aggression that can result from bullying, even years later, can be problematic. Nadine Connell, director of the Center for Crime and Justice Studies at the University of Texas at Dallas, says that bullying can continue into patterns of adulthood that can be dangerous.

Experts warn that children who engage in high rates of bullying in childhood and adolescence can later become more skilled in aggression. Chronically victimized people may develop major depressive disorders or generalized anxiety disorders as a result of being bullied year after year.

The organization reports that a very small number of bullied children might retaliate through extremely violent measures. Shooters had a history of being bullied in 12 out of 15 school shooting cases in the 1990s. Bullying is a problematic issue that has ties to violence, both for bullies and their victims.

Schools, parents and even government agencies are trying to find new ways to address bullying and reduce its frequency and impact.

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