Poster Session
Issue Date: August 2016
Published Online: August 01, 2016
Updated: January 01, 2021
Overcoming Bullying: The Narrative Experiences of Adults and Potential Roles for Occupational Therapy
Author Affiliations
  • Midwestern University
  • Midwestern University
  • Midwestern University
  • Midwestern University
Article Information
Mental Health / Multidisciplinary Practice / Pediatric Evaluation and Intervention / School-Based Practice / Health Services Research and Education
Poster Session   |   August 01, 2016
Overcoming Bullying: The Narrative Experiences of Adults and Potential Roles for Occupational Therapy
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, August 2016, Vol. 70, 7011510187.
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, August 2016, Vol. 70, 7011510187.

Date Presented 4/7/2016

This study used a basic interpretive design to gain a better understanding of the lived experiences of 8 people who were bullied as youths and to understand their thoughts on how to prevent or reduce youth bullying today. Potential roles for occupational therapy in addressing bullying will be discussed.

Primary Author and Speaker: Olivia Byjos

Additional Authors and Speakers: Susan Cahill, Jackie Dusing, Callyn Zartman

RATIONALE: According to the Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence, bullying is defined as intentional and repeated aggression that leads to an unbalanced power relationship between two people. The National Center for Education Statistics states that approximately 40% of middle school students are involved in bullying-related experiences, either as a victim or as a bully, at least once per week, with peak bullying rates occurring in sixth through eighth grades (Domino, 2013). Bullying can affect a child’s mental health and potentially cause anxiety, depression, and social isolation (Smokowski & Lopasz, 2005). The American Occupational Therapy Association has identified bullying as an emerging area of practice for occupational therapists working with school-age children. Therefore, it is critical that occupational therapy practitioners understand the perspectives of individuals who have encountered bullying.
Investigators studied the perspectives of adults who were previously bullied in elementary school or high school to gain insights into the types of supports that might be beneficial in preventing bullying with school-age youths today. The investigators were particularly interested in understanding how bullying potentially affected people’s occupational identity, habits, and roles, as well as the environments in which they chose to participate.
METHOD: Investigators generated semistructured interview questions based on themes found in current literature that addressed individuals’ bullying experiences, their supports, and the impact of bullying on their occupational identity. Eight adult participants (5 women and 3 men) were interviewed using the semistructured interview guide. The interviews were audio recorded and ranged in length from 20 to 45 min. The interviews were transcribed verbatim. Data were analyzed using a constant comparison method.
RESULTS: Based on the semistructured interviews, four primary themes emerged from the data: participants’ responses to being bullied, long-term effects on social participation, “do something,” and the need for bullying prevention programs. Participants responded to being bullied by not telling anyone, telling their parents, telling a teacher, or by connecting with a friend. Most of the participants reported more than one response. Participants identified long-term effects related to social participation that continue to affect them into adulthood, such as difficulty making or keeping friends and fear of different groups of people (e.g., males). Finally, all of the participants reported that individuals who are being bullied should “do something.” Female participants recommended telling someone, whereas male participants recommended “standing up” for oneself. Participants recommended a two-pronged bullying prevention program to address the needs of the bullies and the victims.
CONCLUSION: Results suggest that those previously bullied at school experience long-term effects that continue to affect their social relationships into adulthood and that gender may influence how individuals respond to being bullied. The results also suggest at least two typical response profiles related to bullying: telling someone or standing up for oneself. Finally, the results suggest a need for school-based bullying prevention programs.
IMPACT STATEMENT: As part of an interprofessional team, occupational therapy practitioners can play a vital role in assessing the impact of bullying on an individual’s engagement in daily occupations and by developing programming to support healthy occupational identity development. Future research is needed to understand the perspectives of individuals who self-identify as bullies in order to determine the appropriate types of supports that could be provided to them.