ADHD & Bullying Part 1

Bullying is in the news all the time lately, but how often do you see it linked to ADHD? Dr. Michele Borba knows a lot about the connection between ADHD and bullying. We spoke with her recently and are thrilled to pass along this important information to you.

Edge:  Seems like most parents of ADHD kids hear their child called a bully at one time or another. From the child’s perspective it can seem like every time they make a mistake, someone cries “bully.”  What is bullying?

Borba:   Everything isn’t bullying. The biggest problem we have right now with all of the awareness and discussion about bullying (which is good) is that no one is on the same page on the definition of bullying (which is a problem).

Edge:  Do you have a good definition of bullying to share with our readers?

Borba:  I like the definition of bullying offered by Olweus Bullying Prevention Program:

  1. Bullying is intentional, negative behavior.  It is not an accident.
  2. Bullying is usually repeated. It becomes a pattern of behavior repeated over time.
  3. Bullying involves a power imbalance in play. The bully is picking on a person who has less power than him or herself.  This can mean bigger in status, power in self, or size that pre

Edge: So where does teasing fit in?

Borba:  Bullying is different from teasing. Every kid in the world gets teased, but the teaser usually can speak up and stop the teasing.  Teasing can be friendly or unfriendly and generally is amongst two kids on an equal level.

Furthermore, there are 5 types of bullying and different types of bullying happen at different ages:

  1. Physical bullying – slamming, kicking, punishing, pinching behaviors,
  2. Emotional cruelty – girls do this best but boys are also guilty.  This is also considered relational aggression. It’s the gossip and ridicule behind the scenes.  Isolation, lies, rumors are some other examples of this type of bullying.
  3. Verbal – including name calling.  Interestingly enough, most bullying starts verbally and grows if not nipped in the bud.
  4. Sexual harassment – starting at younger and younger ages.  It’s not unheard of for elementary-aged girls to report behavior that is sexual harassment.
  5. Electronic or cyber bullying – any electronic means be it text, email on a website. Obviously this is the newest type of bullying that gets the most attention.

Edge:  Why do some children get bullied more than others?

Borba:  There is no one reason why a child is a bully or a victim.  Yet we know that certain dynamics know makes a child more vulnerable. Children tend to be picked on for their differences. If fact, when I do focus groups with kids and ask who is someone usually bullied, they say, “someone who is different.” Being too quiet or a good student (gifted kids) or having acne or being a different race, having a speech impediment or having ADHD are a few of the differences that get picked up on and targeted. After all, everyone is different in some way or another.  Even the most popular student leaders can be bullied.

Also, victims can also become bullies. Research indicates that 13% of the time, victims will become bullies when the social scene changes.

Next Week:  ADHD, bullying and what to do about it.

Dr. Michele Borba is a former classroom teacher who has worked in regular education as well as with children with learning, physical, behavioral and emotional disabilities, and in a private practice for troubled youth. She earned her Doctorate in Educational Psychology and Counseling from the University of San Francisco, an M.A. in Learning Disabilities and B.A. from the University of Santa Clara, and a Life Teaching Credential from San Jose State University. Michele is the “go-to” expert on parenting, bullying prevention, education and child/teen issues for numerous news organizations including the NBC Today Show and Dr. Drew’s Lifechangers. We are all fortunate that she has devoted more than 30 years of her life to developing a framework to strengthen children’s character and build moral school climates. Read more about here.

 Have you been bullied?  Do you feel having ADHD has affected your school yard social life positively or negatively? Let us know in the comments.


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  1. Traywick
    | Reply

    Wow, some rather good points! I appreciate you writing this article and the remainder of your site is exceptional!

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