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PROJECT: THE NEUROLOGICAL IMPACT OF BULLYING ON SECONDARY SCHOOL LEARNERS

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Grade 8 is a milestone for every teenager.  It is also daunting in many ways and bullying has an emotional and psychological impact on young people.


SSS has posted several projects in the past to forewarn parents to be informed and aware of bullying and its impact on children.


Bullying has a significant and lasting neurological impact on teenagers, especially when one considers the hormonal changes of puberty, which these young people are simultaneously enduring.


The brain, particularly during childhood and adolescence, is highly susceptible to environmental influences, including social interactions.

 

TYPES OF BULLYING:


Physical Bullying: 

  • This involves physical harm or the threat of physical harm.

  • It may include hitting, kicking, or damaging personal belongings.


Verbal Bullying: 

  • This includes name-calling, teasing, and using hurtful language.

  • This also includes bullying via social media.


Social Bullying: 

  • Also known as relational bullying, this involves deliberately excluding someone from social activities or spreading rumours.


 

EFFECTS ON VICTIMS:


Emotional Impact:

  • Victims often experience feelings of fear, anxiety, and depression. 

  • This can lead to a decline in self-esteem and academic performance.


Physical Health:

  • Bullying can manifest physical symptoms such as headaches, stomach-aches, and changes in sleeping patterns.


Academic Consequences:

  • The stress and anxiety associated with bullying can interfere with a child's ability to concentrate and succeed academically.

 

NEUROLOGICAL EFFECTS OF BULLYING ON SECONDARY SCHOOL LEARNERS:


Stress Response:

  • Bullying is a chronic stressor, and repeated exposure to stress can activate the body's stress response system.

  • The release of stress hormones, such as cortisol, can have adverse effects on the brain, particularly in areas responsible for emotional regulation and memory.

Changes in Brain Structure:

  • Prolonged exposure to stress, including the stress associated with bullying, can lead to structural changes in the brain.

  • The hippocampus, a region crucial for learning and memory, may be particularly affected.

  • These changes can influence cognitive function and emotional well-being.

Impact on Neural Networks:

  • Chronic stress can affect the development and function of neural networks in the brain, particularly those involved in emotion processing and regulation.

  • This can contribute to symptoms of anxiety and depression.


Altered Neurotransmitter Levels:

  • Neurotransmitters, the chemical messengers in the brain, play a crucial role in mood regulation.

  • Bullying-induced stress can alter the balance of neurotransmitters, leading to mood disorders and emotional instability.


Impaired Executive Function:

  • Executive functions, such as impulse control, decision-making, and cognitive flexibility, can be impaired in individuals who have experienced chronic stress like that caused by bullying.

  • This may impact a student's ability to focus, plan, and regulate their behaviour.


Heightened Emotional Sensitivity:

  • Bullying can sensitize the brain to emotional stimuli, making the individual more reactive to stressors.

  • This heightened emotional sensitivity can contribute to increased anxiety and difficulties in coping with everyday challenges.


Risk of Mental Health Issues:

  • Long-term exposure to bullying is associated with an increased risk of mental health issues, including anxiety disorders, depression, and, in extreme cases, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

  • These conditions have clear neurological underpinnings and can affect various aspects of brain function.


 

Some adults, parents, and teachers might trivialise the impact of bullying on especially young children but when empirical evidence shows the actual harm it does, it becomes critical to take responsibility and address such behaviour.


It's important to note that the neurological impact of bullying can vary from individual to individual, and not all victims will experience the same outcomes. Additionally, factors such as resilience, coping strategies, and the presence of supportive relationships can influence how a person responds to bullying.


Addressing bullying promptly, providing psychological support, and fostering a safe and inclusive environment are crucial steps in mitigating the negative neurological consequences for young learners who have experienced bullying. Early intervention and support can help reduce the long-term impact on their neurological and mental well-being.


 

REFERENCES:


 
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Regards,

Mike Bolhuis

Specialist Investigators into

Serious Violent, Serious Economic Crimes & Serious Cybercrimes

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Mobile: +27 82 447 6116

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