By: Elizabeth Donovan, M.A.
Bullying is a problem among young girls that is becoming more prevalent. Bullying by girls has traditionally been swept under the carpet and researchers have focused more on boys as aggressors but lately, those statistics have dramatically changed. In fact, new studies have found that not only are girls more likely to be bullied, but it can have lasting effects particularly for girls.
The University of Warwick and University of Yetfordshire in England found that girls who were physically injured (beaten or hit) or were victims of emotional abuse (verbal threats) at age 6 are 2.5 times more likely to still be victims of bullies at age 10. Unfortunately, it seems that girls who are picked on from an early age continue to be victims of bullying.
The study also found that the way girls were bullied often changed as they grew older, becoming more subtle, using emotional abuse instead of physical abuse. At age 6, girls who were bullied were more likely to suffer physical injuries and threats. But by age 10, bullying was more likely to be in the form of gossip, excluding someone from a peer group, and withdrawal of friendships. By the teen years, girls who are bullied can find themselves a social pariah or worse, teased mercilessly.
What can parents do to help avoid the prolonged traumatic effects of bullying and ensure your daughter isn’t a constant victim? Researchers have emphasized the need for more intervention in early grade school to get victims of bullying the help they need. This includes parents and teachers looking for early signs of bullying.
Young children as well as older girls may not be willing to talk about the bullying but they often show behavioral signs. It’s important for parents and teachers to quickly identify and intervene with young children as soon as they notice these signs.
Signs Your Daughter is Being Bullied:
• Your daughter is frightened of walking to and from school and/or changes her usual route
• She doesn’t want you to go on the school bus.
• She pleads with you to drive her to school.
• She is unwilling to go to school
• She constantly complains of “feeling sick” in the morning.
• Her grades suddenly drop.
• You notice that your daughter arrives home from school with clothes or books destroyed. Or you notice that some of her belongings (lunch box, jacket, bracelet) are missing.
• She’s always complaining that she’s hungry when she gets home from school (a sign that bullies are stealing her lunch money).
• Your child becomes withdrawn, isolates herself, and begins stuttering or stammering.
• She becomes anxious or distressed and stops eating.
• Attempts or threaten suicide.
• Her sleep patterns are disrupted (cries herself to sleep, wakes up with nightmares).
• Asks you for lots of money or starts to steal in an effort to ‘pay off’ the bully.
• She refuses to talk about what’s wrong.
• You notice physical injuries such as bruises, cuts, or scratches.
• She begins to bully other children or siblings.
• Your child becomes aggressive and belligerent.
If you notice any or many of these symptoms in your daughter, be sure to intervene (and have the school intervene) as soon as possible. The effects of bullying can be lifelong for girls – lowering their self-esteem, giving way to anxiety and depression, and creating a lack of self-confidence. It’s far better to be an ‘overprotective’ and ‘inquisitive’ parent than one who believes children should ‘buck up’ and take care of themselves. Our children seek and need our protection, especially when they are hurting.
For more information about bullying, please see:
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Elizabeth Donovan, M.A. is the founder of ParentingPink.com and has worked as an adolescent mental health therapist/supervisor for nearly a decade. Areas of expertise include: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Conduct Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), Anxiety, Depression, and Sexual Assault/Trauma. A few years ago she gave up her full-time job as a psychotherapist to be a stay-at-home mom to her three little girls. Ms. Donovan’s articles have been published in several magazines including: Parenting, BabyTalk, Guideposts Sweet Sixteen, and Listen. An expert in her field, she also provides parenting to various media outlets.
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