Pink Shirt Day: We all have a role to play in stopping bullying!

CIHR is supporting research into the health impacts of bullying

Updated February 2020

“35% of Canadian youth reporting being bullied occasionally and 10% reporting being bullied every day. Bullying creates physical and mental health problems, academic difficulties, and impacts productivity. Bullying derails potential, a cost that is borne by all Canadians.

My CIHR-funded research helps identify ways to reduce bullying in schools and communities, thus improving the health and well-being of Canadians.”

Dr. Tracy Vaillancourt

Bullying hurts long after the abuse has stopped

Dr. Tracy Vaillancourt
University of Ottawa and Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in School-based Mental Health and Violence Prevention

CIHR supports research that looks into the health impacts of bullying.

One such study, examining the long-term effects of childhood bullying, is taking place at the University of Ottawa.

Dr. Tracy Vaillancourt is a professor with the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Education, and Brain and Mind Institute. As Canada Research Chair in School-based Mental Health and Violence Prevention, she is also a health researcher on a mission.

Her quest is a difficult one: she wants to convince Canadians that we must all stand up and speak out against bullying.

Dr. Vaillancourt hopes to improve the outcomes of children and youth who are being victimized by empowering them and making them less attractive targets.

In addition, Dr. Vaillancourt and her team are gathering the data needed to convince school administrators to increase resources allocated to supervising areas where bullying is common, such as schoolyards.

In the past, the problem of bullying was often ignored or dismissed as normal childhood behaviour. However, we now know that bullying is far from “normal.”

Science says…

Researchers like Dr. Vaillancourt are uncovering evidence that clearly demonstrates that the impact of bullying is more profound than we once thought.

Bullying causes immediate harm and its effects can extend well into the future.  The scope of the problem is much larger than we may think with more than a half a million Canadian children reporting having been bullied.

In response, Dr. Vaillancourt is leading a team of researchers investigating the long-term effects of bullying on adult mental health, academic achievement, and functional outcomes (such as the ability to meet financial obligations or hold a job).

Dr. Vaillancourt notes that a number of behavioural issues can be symptoms of a mental health condition resulting from poor treatment by peers.


The Internet has added another aggravating factor to the challenge of eliminating bullying. While past generations dealt with bullying in the playground and schoolyard, today’s youth also face cyberbullying on social media sites – meaning that they are always just one click away from being victimized.

Cyberbullying is when the bully uses social media sites, email, text messages, Internet sites and chat rooms to physically threaten, verbally harass, or socially exclude an individual or group, often anonymously.

Although our brains may be hard-wired to seek connection with others, that skill does not come easily for everyone. Many of the children who struggle to forge social connections are particularly vulnerable to bullying. The resulting physical or psychological damage can leave lasting scars.

Dr. Vaillancourt and her team are working to establish the time sequence of bullying and resulting outcomes. This information is critical. Without strong scientific knowledge, the potential to rely upon less effective and potentially damaging approaches to prevention and intervention increases.

By examining the chronological sequence between peer victimization and young adult outcomes Dr. Vaillancourt and her team will be able to formulate much-needed definitive statements about the long-term impact of bullying. Stakeholders will be able to use the results of this important research to create evidence-based programs, interventions, and knowledge mobilization campaigns.

Dr. Vaillancourt also hopes that her work will encourage the sharing best practices across all jurisdictions, so children across Canada can live, attend school, and play without fear of being abused by their peers.

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