Students who are bullied regularly, UCLA psychologists has found, do substantially worse in school.
The study was conducted with 2,300 students in 11 Los Angeles-area public middle schools and their teachers. Researchers asked the students to rate whether or not they get bullied on a four-point scale and to list which of their fellow students were bullied the most - physically, verbally and as the subject of nasty rumors.
A high level of bullying was consistently associated with lower grades across the three years of middle school. The students who were rated the most-bullied performed substantially worse academically than their peers.
"We cannot address low achievement in school while ignoring bullying, because the two are frequently linked," said Jaana Juvonen, a UCLA professor of psychology and lead author of the study.
"Students who are repeatedly bullied receive poorer grades and participate less in class discussions.
Some students may get mislabeled as low achievers because they do not want to speak up in class for fear of getting bullied. Teachers can misinterpret their silence, thinking that these students are not motivated to learn.
"Students who get bullied run the risk of not coming to school, not liking school, perceiving school more negatively and now - based on this study - doing less well academically," said Juvonen, who is also a professor in UCLA's developmental psychology program.
"But the link between bullying and achievement can work both ways. The students who are doing poorly are at higher risk for getting bullied, and any student who gets bullied may become a low achiever. Whether bullying happens on school grounds or after school hours on the Internet, it can paralyze students from concentrating on academics."
The study is published Aug. 19 in the Journal of Early Adolescence.