Most bullied children do not become violent. In fact, bullied children tend to be kids with more empathy and a less aggressive personality. Yet bullying also has an indisputable effect on school violence, since even the soundest of individuals can only internalize so much before they explode. While most bullied children do not lash out violently, OTHERS DO resort to violent acts as a direct result of the bullying they experience. This violence can take forms ranging from fist fights to Columbine-style school shootings.
Bullying as a form of school violence
In the most direct way, bullying is related to school violence because much of what bullies do IS physically violent. Shoving someone into a locker, kicking or punching them as they walk down the halls, or shoving them down stairs all qualify as significant acts of violence, and can even lead to serious injury. One boy, for example, was left paralyzed from the neck down after being shoved down a staircase at his school by a bully. Other children are attacked by groups of aggressors, sometimes jumped on their way home from school. Rocks, hard objects, or other items may be hurled at them - sometimes launched in their direction from a moving car. These types of assaults would be treated as a potentially serious criminal act if we were dealing with adults, and we should take it just as seriously when our kids experience them. This violence affects not only the bullied child, but other children who must spend their day in a violent environment where such assaults are considered commonplace.
How bullying leads to retaliatory violence
On the other side of the equation, the psychological harm done to a bullied child can often incubate violent tendencies or spark a violent act in retaliation. Bullied children are shamed on a regular basis, and psychologists have long known there is a strong causal link between shame and violence. (Gilligan, 1997) Bullied children also face alienation from their peers. This social exclusion is known to lead to distraction, preoccupation, lethargy, and a sense of meaninglessness, which in turn breeds violence. (Twenge et al., 2003) There's only so much torment and humiliation bullied children can take before many resort to lashing out in return.