October is National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month

Bullying in Middle School

Dealing with Bullying in Middle School

Unfortunately the middle school years have the distinction of being the years when bullying incidents peak making it a particularly hard period for many youth. Of all students, middle school students feel the least safe and aren’t often sure what adults to turn to for help.

Here are some facts about middle school bullying. In one survey of middle school students in the US:

  1. 13% of students reported bullying others
  2. 21% of students reported being victims of bullying
  3. An additional 13% of students reported both engaging in and being victims of bullying.

Why Does Bullying Peak in Middle School?

Several theories have been put forth as to why bullying peaks in middle school.

One theory is that the transition from elementary to middle school is a time when students are in new surroundings with new peers and so are forced to make new friends and find new peer groups. Dominance in these new groups is often achieved through bullying with the bullies of elementary school becoming the leaders in middle school.

Why Would Being Forced to Make New Friends Lead to an Increase in Bullying?

Adolescents that bully / middle school bullies are perceived by their peers as more attractive than their obedient counterparts. In one study, at the end of middle school, girls were found to nominate the dominant, more aggressive boys as dates to a hypothetical party.

Rather than being social outcasts, middle school bullies are perceived as more attractive and dominant. At a time when students are in an unfamiliar environment and forced to make new friends, bullying and aggressive behaviour makes middle school bullies look more attractive and helps them secure their position as leaders amongst their new peers.

The Effects of Bullying on Middle School Students

Students that are victims of bullying in middle school have greater tendency than others to blame themselves for being bullies. They don’t perceive the bullying as a reflection of the bully but instead internalize the situation as being a result of some defect in themselves making them more depressed.  

Dealing with Middle School Bullying

A couple measures can be taken, specific to the middle school environment, to reduce bullying:

  1. One study showed that bullying decreased when students kept the same classmates and counselors during the transition from elementary school to  middle school.
  2. Adult supervision and structure is important. One study showed that less adult supervision and structure results in increases in bullying in middle school.

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