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‘Bullied children see social relationships through dark-colored glasses’

05 April 2022

Children who are bullied view social relationships more negatively than children who are not bullied, according to research by sociologist Sanne Kellij and colleagues. The research was recently published in the scientific journal Adolescent Research Review.

Dark-colored glasses

Kellij examined how bullied children view social relationships by means of a so-called systematic review. She analyzed 142 previously conducted studies and found that children who are bullied think more negatively about social relationships than children who are not bullied. Kellij: ‘Bullied children feel rejected more easily and have the feeling that they cannot count on help from others. They are also more likely to think that others have mean intentions and are more concerned about negative evaluations of others. In short, they see social relationships through dark-colored glasses.’

Two sides

Kellij emphasizes that some caution is needed when interpreting the results of her study. Whether being bullied leads to a more negative view of social relationships or whether that negative view actually is a precursor of being bullied, is not clear yet. ‘It could be that bullying causes children to become more sensitive, so that, for example, jokes are not received as such and things like an accidental push are more quickly seen as deliberately mean behavior. It could also be that children who react more negatively to a joke run a greater risk of being bullied, because others find their reaction over the top.’

Taking it seriously

According to Kellij, it is very important that the feelings of bullied children are taken seriously. ‘Research shows that many children who self-report that they are being bullied are not seen as victims by classmates or teachers. But what matters most is how these children feel. I think it is important to take children seriously when they say they are being bullied. Have a conversation with them and ask what specific things made them feel so bad and what would help them. Also, it is a good idea to have a conversation with the person who is being reported as a bully and try to make them aware of how the victim is feeling.’


Sanne Kellij

Kellij, S., Lodder, G.M.A., van den Bedem, N., Güro─člu, B., & Veenstra, D.R. (2022) ‘The Social Cognitions of Victims of Bullying: A Systematic Review’. Adolescent Research Review .

Last modified:29 August 2022 10.02 a.m.
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