Keywords. Bullying, mental health, Adverse Childhood Experiences, Parenting methods, attachment, conduct disorder, Nigeria
Bullying – Culture of Silence in Nigeria. What is bullying? What is the relationship between bullying and family dynamics? Does bullying occur in schools in Nigeria? How is bullying related to mental health?
Bullying is a form of aggressive behavior in which someone intentionally and repeatedly causes another person injury or discomfort. This is according to the American Psychology Association. The association continues by saying that it can be physical or psychological, and the bullied person cannot defend self. The person also did nothing to bring the bullying about.
So the types of bullying include beating, slapping, kicking, and all other forms of physical abuse. It can also be name calling, humiliating, harassing, gossiping about the person, and all other forms of psychological abuse. This also includes excluding the person from others.
Unfortunately, bullying has a culture of silence in Nigeria.
What causes bullying – culture of silence in Nigeria?
1. Family dynamics.
Yes, being bullied in school has a whole lot to do with the environment of the family one comes from. The influence of the family environment will determine if one becomes a victim of bullying or a perpetrator, or both.
a. Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs):
Adverse Childhood experiences are the negative issues one passes through in the family as one is growing up. These includes physical abuse and neglect,, psychological abuse and neglect, etc. These are some of the risk factors to bullying. Any of the ACEs can predispose one to either being a victim or a perpetrator of bullying. The more numbers of ACEs one experiences, the more the risk of bullying.
This is because ACEs negatively affects neurological development. They also cause emotional impairment, thus affecting the way a person expresses his or her emotions. And they can increase the likelihood of one using maladaptive emotions to cope. When one makes use of maladaptive strategies as coping methods, it can predispose the person to social problems. These include low self esteem, aggression and substance abuse.
Also experiencing any of these ACEs, increases the risk of bringing weapons to school. We do know that not every child who is exposed to ACEs will become violent. But science has proved it over and again that whatever happens to a child at home, affects what happens in school. If the father is the main aggressor, it is more likely the child may become the bullying perpetrator in school. So bullying actually starts at home, where children learn how to be aggressive to those who are less powerful. Research documents that in low and middle income countries, 33% – 46% of those exposed to ACEs will witness peer violence.
b. Parenting methods:
The risk of becoming a bully, victim or perpetrator, can be brought about by parenting methods. There are different types of parenting methods, which include authoritative, authoritarian, permissive (indulgent), neglectful parenting.
The authoritarian parenting can predispose the child to being a peer bullying perpetrator. Then the permissive parenting is more likely to predispose the child to peer bullying victim. But those, whose parents practice the authoritative parenting, are at a very low risk of bullying, either as a perpetrator or a victim. So a family showing love and communication reduces the risk being a victim or a perpetrator of bullying in school.
c. Attachment issues:
Victims and perpetrators of school peer bullying can actually be children who had poor maternal/child attachment. For the perpetrators, they are more likely to have formed an avoidant insecure attachment with the mother. And for the victims, they are more likely to have formed an anxious insecure attachment with the mother.
d. Parental over protection:
Some parents over protect their children from all types of negative outside influence. When this happens, they prevent them from learning coping styles, even for bullying. So these over protected children can become victims of bullying.
2. Conduct disorder.
Children with conduct disorders do also perpetrate bullying in extreme forms in schools. The children with conduct disorder enjoy causing harm to humans, animals, properties, etc. They do not obey rules and are not remorseful about their actions.
Modeling comes about after observing an action, one begins to do or repeat the same action. So, when children have been victims of repeated bullying, it is more likely that they will become bullies in future or in senior classes.
This is actually a form of repeated stressors that can predispose a child to aggressive behaviors.
4. Cultism and substance abuse.
It is a known fact that being a member of a gang can predispose one to peer school bullying. Also, gang members do abuse substances. But it is important that we do know that ACEs are risk factors for being a member of a gang, weapon carrying and substance abuse. Poor parenting methods are risk factors, and so is being a victim of bullying a risk factor for joining cults.
Cultists and those who abuse substances are actually perpetrators of school bullying. They do it to receive honor and respect. Gang members also engage in bullying to receive promotions in their gangs and win more friends. Some just do it for fun.
5. Inadequate supervision from school authorities.
When the school authorities are unable to check bullying, then the risk of bullying becomes high. Many schools lack things for extracurricular activities for sports and other recreational activities. Some schools are over populated. And supervision by school authorities is either minimal or outright nonexistent.
Even some members of school authorities could be members of cult groups. Many of school authorities are even afraid of their students.
There is also lack of security measures in many schools, be it private or public. This increases the risk for bullying to occur.
Does bullying occur in Nigerian schools?
Bullying occur in most schools in Nigeria, be it day school, boarding school, private or public schools. It occurs in the primary and secondary schools, as well as in the higher institutions. The prevalence published in a research paper reported that 51.4% males and 50.8% females were victims of primary school bullying. And 51.8% males with 49.5% females were perpetrators. The prevalence of bullying among Nigerian adolescents attending secondary schools are 85% in Benin city, 33% and in Osun state. In Portharcout, the prevalence is as high as 64%, while in Sokoto state it is 78,7%. Another research paper report gave a prevalence of 85% among boarding adolescents in Nigeria.
All these prevalence are higher than those seen in USA and Canada which are 10.6% and 6.1%, respectively. But unfortunately, Nigerian parents believe that bullying is a normal part of growing up. They believe that it helps to make the children tough enough to face future challenges.
Reports from Federal Ministry of Education in 2007 showed that 85% of bullying came as physical violence. It also reported that psychological violence was at a prevalence of 50% in schools. And a research paper of 2013 reported that bullying occurs in the southern part of Nigeria than in the Northern part.
Mental health consequences of bullying.
It is very unfortunate that parents do not take the issues of bullying seriously. Most Nigerian parents believe that it is a normal in boarding schools. They also believe that the child needs bullying to get tough for future challenges in life. Parents thus reinforce school bullying. Thus, bullying and the culture of silence in Nigeria. Unknowingly, parents have contributed to the both the physical and psychological health implications of bullying.
Yes, there are negative physical and mental health implications of bullying. But these notwithstanding, not every child that experiences bullying gets affected by it, negatively. The physical health implications of bullying are numerous, but what will be discussed here are only the mental health effects.
A. The victim:
1. Psychological issues.
Children who are constantly bullied are always tensed and on edge. The children have problem with falling asleep and staying asleep. They somatize there inner tension by frequently complaining about abdominal pain, headaches, chronic aches and pains.
The victims are also at the risk of developing mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, and deliberate self harm. Such persons could have low self esteem and impulsivity. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) could be an after effect of bullying. Suicide is possible with victims of bullying. They can also abuse substances like cannabis, alcohol, etc. to self medicate their mental health issues.
2. Social issues.
The victims can socially isolate themselves by withdrawing from their peers and others. They can join cult members to protect themselves from more bullying. Victims can frequently miss school or play truancy.
They may have issues with interpersonal relationship in later life, and at work. Having Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) may be a frequent occurrence with those who experienced school bullying. They may have problems with attachment with their children. Making use of good parenting and disciplinary measures may be difficult.
3. Cognitive issues.
Being frequently bullied can affect the child’s brain functioning. Bullying affects the different parts of the victim’s brain, like the prefrontal cortex, hippocampus, amygdale, etc. So there will be problems in learning, concentrating, memory, planning and decision making.
The victim may have problems in remembering things in academic and may have poor marks. He may at the end drop out of school or graduate with very low marks. They may never reach their full academic potentials.
Unfortunately this problem in remembering does not affect remembering the trauma of bullying. The memories of bullying lasts for a very long time and can last for decades. This is because memories of trauma in adolescence are very difficult to go extinct or wipe off.
For the fact that they were unable to reach their full potentials in academics, they may not be able to secure a good jobs. They may venture into business, and may not succeed economically.
B. The perpetrator:
1. Psychological issues.
These include being aggressive and impulsive as well as having anxiety disorders. Perpetrators feel insecure, suffer from anxiety and depression. The perpetrators may develop psychosomatic problems such as crawling sensations or heat in the body. They may end up having personality disorders such as dissocial or narcissistic personality disorders. Such people may also develop psychosis. Deliberate self harm and suicidality are possibilities.
2. Social issues.
The perpetrators of bullying can be expelled from school. They may end up as criminals and even perpetrators of sexual abuse. These perpetrators of bullying may also become perpetrators of IPV in relationships. There are also poor relationships between them and their teachers. They join gangs and abuse substances.
3. Cognitive issues.
Perpetrators of bullying have poor academic performance. And there is a high risk of their dropping out of school. They also have problems with following school rules.
There are also possibilities of unemployment with economic down turn.
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