English Homework

Bullying: A Greater Disadvantage for Disabled Children than Non-Disabled Children

Bullying: A Greater Disadvantage for Disabled Children than Non-Disabled Children

Children with disabilities are more likely to be impacted by bullying than children without a disability.  Bullying against children takes many forms such as domineering, exclusion, mocking mannerism, shunning, physical aggression, intimidation and verbal abuse.  In a reseach article by Guckenburg, Hayes and Petrosino (2011), most disabled students received verbal abuses, mimicking disability, social exclusion and physical aggression.  It has been found that children with a disability find it hard to cope in the school environment due to bulling, and furthermore, has resonated to a larger extent in their performance and ultimate success.

The perception of weaknesses related to disability and visible insufficiencies facilitate bullies to perceive individuals with a disability as more vulnerable and easy targets.  According to Fabel (2008), 41% of student-student bullying was caused by social shortcoming and another 21% by special education needs and disabilities.  Given that most disabled children learn in an inclusive environment where their insufficiencies are open to non-disabled individuals, these environments increase the risk of being bullied.  Notably, a study conducted by Carter and Spencer (2006) identified that children with disabilities look different because they tend to receive extra help in school, stay alone during playtime, and have limited social interactions and intellectual capacity than normal children.  The inability to establish social relations and their visible physical and mental insufficiencies pre-expose these children to bullying. 

A study administered by Unnever and Cornell (2003), established that limited social awareness among individuals with disabilities make them more susceptible to bullying than individuals without disabilities.  The study further determined that social rejection of individuals with a disability make them “look different” putting them an increased risk of victimization.  Disability is a socially constructed phenomenon and acts as an impediment for people with physical and mental impairments.  The social stigma associated with a disability, and schooling in an all-inclusive environment exposes the disabled to the likelihood of being bullied (Arseneault, Bowes & Shakoor, 2010).  For example, a research article completed by Wang, Iannotti and Luk (2010), ascertained that the tendency to reject disabled children in a society web due to the social stigma associated with weight or disability makes them stand as subjects of bullying.  Similar findings by Weiner and Mak (2009), found evidence that children with Autism Spectrum Disorders expressed limited social interaction skills and visible shyness, passiveness and low self-esteem made them easy targets for bullying occurrences.  The article indicated 40% of children with Autism Spectrum Disorders and 60% of children with Asperger’s syndrome were subjected to bullying due to the social stigma associated with the conditions and visible deficiencies (Weiner & Mak, 2009). 

There is a widespread perception that bullies target individuals who are dissimilarfrom others in the sense that they have a limited ability to respond to the intimidation.  Conversely, other studies suggest that disabled children are more likely to be the offenders than non-disabled children.  A study conducted by Storch, Lewin, Silverstein and Heidgerken (2004), determined that children with a disability tend to act as victim-bullies through violent behaviors, hyperactivity and unruly behaviors.  Another research study by Hamiwka and Hamiwka (2009), shared similar findings that disabled children were bigger bullies than the non-disabled due to the low self-esteem they suffered as a result of social exclusion; therefore, the disabled individuals sought compensation for being excluded by bullying others at school.  These bullying acts were exhibited in the form of quarrelsome behaviors, tantrums and violence.  The following three journal reviews will further substantiate this claim.

Unnever and Cornell (2003), conducted a survey of 1,315 students to investigate the influences of low self-control and Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) on bullying and its victimization of middle school students in Roanoke, VA.  The survey was anonymous and administered by teachers.  Of the student population, 180 previously diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) were selected by posing a question of whether one was using hyperactivity drugs; the following questions were then posed to the sample group: a) had not been bullied; b) had been bullied only once or twice; c) had been bullied two or three times a month (d) had been bullied about once a week; or e) had been bullied several times a week. 

The results indicated: 34% of students with ADHD experienced bullying two to three times per month; 22% of students without disability experienced bullying; an estimated 13% of students with ADHD acknowledged that they had bullied others two to three times in a month; 8% of students without a disability reported that they bullied others two to three times in a month.  Evidently, students with an ADHD disability were more likely to be bullied and bully other children than non-disabled children.  The effect of a student with ADHD disabilty on bulling – due to lower level lack of self-control – was more significant compared with the impact on non-disabled students.  The study also found that ADHD was a precursor to social exclusion and aggressive responses from other students (Unnever  & Cornell, 2003, p. 135-142).

The next research article by Guckenburg, Hayes and Petrosino (2011), involved a study using the statewide data from the 2009 Maine Integrated Youth Health High School Survey (MIYHS) on 134 public and quasi-public high schools in Maine to review the rates of reported bullying for disabled and non-disabled students.  40, 329 students were invited to participate in a survey, however the sample size was reduced to 10,680.  The survey included the following research questions: 1) during the past 12 months, have you ever been bullied on school property; 2) during the past 12 months, have you ever been bullied away from school property; 3) during the past 12 months, have you ever been electronically bullied, such as through e-mail, chat rooms, instant messaging, web sites or text messaging. 

The survey findings were as follows: 49.9% of disabled students were victims of being bullied, while 28.5% of non-disabled students were victimized; 48.1% of disabled students reported they were victims of bullying due to their physical or long-term health disability status; 30.2 % of non-disabled students were not bullied for this reason; 56% of disabled students reported that long term emotional and behavioral problem was the reason behind their bullying, while 28.5% of non-disabled were not victims for this reason; 33.6% of disabled students were more likely to be bullied on school property, and away from school property – 30.8%; whereas 18% of non-disabled students were bullied on school property and 13.1% away from school property; 31.4% of disabled students were bullied by electronic means; 15.9% of non-disabled students were bullied by electronic means.  The study further concluded that “students with disability are particular at-risk to increased reports of bullying” (Guckenburg et al., p. 9-12). 

A study conducted by Chatzitheochari, Parsons and Platt (2015), included a Millennium Cohort Study (MCS) on a four-wave longitudinal sample of 7342 children, and a Longitudinal Study of Young People in England (LSYPE) on a three-wave longitudinal sample of 12,144 young people for children between the ages of 7-15 years old.  The results of the study established the following: younger children were at an increased risk of bullying; 8% percent of non-disabled were bullied; 14% of the disabled were bullied; 20% of both the disabled and non-disabled children between the age of 7-15 were found to be bullied on the socio-economic grounds.  The study additionally concluded that student with a disability was more prone to bulling than students without a disability (Chatzitheochari et al., 2015, p. 703).

In conclusion, occurrences of student bullying are well documented across the globe.  It is estimated that 28% of students in the United States of America are exposed to significant incidents of bullying every year (Hymel, & Swearer, 2015).  Cases of suicidal ideation, eating disorders and school absenteeism are prevalent among students who are bullied at school (Chatzitheochari et al., 2015).  As disabilities in children can take many forms including but not limited to physical, health, emotional and behavioral conditions, it is important to further examine how various forms of disabilities may increase or decrease students’ susceptibility to bully other persons.  It is essential to device programs that will prevent and reduce the occurrences of disability bullying as the effects of a bully is extremely calamitous, and can lead to tragic cases such suicide, decreased academic achievements, depression and anxiety, increased health complications, and eventual low socioeconomic attainment in a person’s future.  Bullying of children with disability is likely to cause a double disadvantage in their lives and future.


Arseneault, L., Bowes, L., & Shakoor, S. (2010) Bullying victimization in youths and mental health problems: ‘Much ado about nothing’? Psychological Medicine, 40(5): 717–729

Carter, B. B. & Spencer, V. G. (2006). The fear factor: Bullying and students with disabilities. International Journal of Special Education, 121(1): 11-23.

Chatzitheochari, S., Parsons, S., & Platt, L. (2015). Doubly disadvantaged? Bullying experiences among disabled children and young people in England, British Sociological Association, 50(4), 695-713.

Fabel, L. (2008, April 24). Autistic students pulled from school after bullying. Retrieved from

Guckenburg, S., Hayes, S., & Petrosino, A. (2011). Bullying of disabled and non-disabled high school students: A comparison using Maine integrated youth health survey, Regional Educational Laboratory at EDC.

Hamiwka, L. D., Yu, C. G., Hamiwka, L. A., et al.  (2009). Are children with epilepsy at greater risk for bullying than their peers? Epilepsy & Behavior, 15, 500-505.

Hymel, S., Swearer, S.M. (2015). Four decades of research on school bullying: An introduction.  American Psychologist Association, 70(4), 293-299.

Storch, E. A., Lewin, A. B., Silverstein, J. H., Heidgerken, A. D et al. (2004). Social-psychological correlates of peer victimization in children with endocrine disorders. Journal of Pediatrics, 145, 784-784.

Unnever, J.D. & Cornell, D.G. (2003). Bullying, self-control, and ADHD. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 81(2), 129-147. 

Wang, J., Iannotti, R. J., & Luk, J. W. (2010). Bullying victimization among underweight and overweight U.S. youth: Differential associations for boys and girls. Journal of Adolescent Health, 47, 99-101.

Weiner, J. & Mak, M. (2009). Peer victimization in children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Psychology in the Schools, 46, 116-131.

White, N.A. & Loeber, R. (2008). Bullying and special education as predictors of serious delinquency. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, 45(4), 380 – 397.

Order Now