Which Type of Bullying is Most Hurtful? New Study Reveals the Answer

This form of victimization is more harmful to teens' mental health than overt bullying. 


Bullying is bullying, and it all hurts the same. Or does it? 

Researchers have long been aware of the strong association between bullying and poor mental health, but when it comes to understanding which forms of bullying yield the most damaging effects, they've been in the dark. Until recent studies in the land down under, scientists had yet to shed light on type-specific impact.

According to a new survey administered by the University of Queensland, Australia, one in seven teens (14 percent) report being actively excluded by their peers. Other highly prevalent forms of bullying include teasing and name-calling (31 percent), spreading rumors (18 percent), and physical threats/harm (11 percent).

But even though social exclusion is not the most recurrent form of bullying, it can be the most hurtful. Ostracized teens, as compared to those who suffer from other forms of bullying, were found more likely to experience increased psychological stress and decreased emotional well-being. The study's researcher, Hannah Thomas, explains:

Social exclusion is a subtle behavior and therefore less likely to prompt a response from an adult. This may result in the behavior persisting for longer than other forms of bullying and makes self defense more difficult, increasing the consequent stress and isolation.

Thomas admits that as upsetting as social exclusion is for young people, it is sometimes perceived by adults to be a normal pain of peer relationships. Yet, when we asked the Choices Teen Advisory Board members to identify whether bullying is a serious problem is in their schools, more than half said that it's a little thing that gets hyped up by adults.

Want to figure out what's really going on? Go straight to the source. Talk to your child about their school's social scene, and refer to our brand new Choices-curated list of the best online resources for teen health, which includes a bunch of spot-on anti-bullying material.