With the increased awareness of bullying, such as ad campaigns and expert opinions, the biggest question being raised is what treatment is truly best for victims’ of bullying. According to recent studies, anti-bullying efforts should be specially personalized to the victims’ needs.

As reported by co-authors, graduate student Niwako Sugimura and Karen D. Rudolph, a professor in the department of psychology at the University of Illinois, intervention programs should be customized by personality, gender and the type of the bullying which was experienced.

Sugimura and Rudolph tracked 283 second-graders’ psychological adjustment for a year analyzing how personality and gender influenced the victims’ development of aggression and depression. Parents were also given a questionnaire relating to their child’s moods and feelings.

Among those who completed the questionnaire, it was revealed that the two most common traits pertaining to their child’s temperament were inhibitory control and negative emotionality. Children who have poor inhibitory control, self-control, tend to do something too quickly or do not think before they react. Those with negative emotionality not only become angry or sad quickly, but also stay upset longer. The study revealed not all children with negative emotionality are depressed but they are more prone to becoming depressed when faced with a serious problem.

It was observed in girls with high negative emotionality who were bullied, either openly or relationally (being excluded), were more likely to display depressive symptoms a year later. On the contrary, boys with high negative emotionality displayed more depressive symptoms independent from the amount of bullying that was experienced, and other boys with low negative emotionality displayed depressive symptoms in response to relational bullying. Rudolph believes there is some kind of genetic component to these traits. For instance boys with high negative emotionality may be at a greater risk for depression compared to boy with low negative emotionality.

It was also discovered girls who have poor inhibitory control are more likely to become physically aggressive compared to an average boy. Both Sugimura and Rudolph are unsure why, but assume it has to do with the fact that heightened aggression is not common in females, so girls view it as a threat and thus become more violent, but research suggest a more aggressive response will only incite bullies.

Sugimura and Rudolph believes the best way to respond to bullying more effectively is to teach children with poor self-control or high negative emotionality to think before they act, how to deal with emotions effectively and increase positive skills.

The study was published in the Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology.