MONDAY, Feb. 17, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Kids who are picked on
by their peers may see lasting effects on their physical and mental
well-being -- especially if the bullying is allowed to persist for
years, a new study suggests.
The study found that kids who are chronically bullied seem to
fare the worst: Those continually picked on from fifth grade to
10th grade had the lowest scores on measures of physical and
Kids who were bullied at a younger age but saw the problem fade
tended to do better. But they were still worse off than their peers
who'd never been victimized.
"I think the message is straightforward," said study lead author Laura Bogart, a scientific researcher at Boston Children's Hospital. "The effects of bullying compound over time, and it's important to catch it early."
The findings are based on nearly 4,300 children from three U.S.
cities who were surveyed in fifth, seventh and 10th grades -- or
roughly the ages of 10, 12 and 15. Overall, 30 percent said they
were being regularly bullied on at least one survey.
That meant they were being physically pushed around, or teased,
at least once a week.
In general, Bogart's team found, kids who were bullied reported
more physical problems -- difficulty playing sports, running or
doing normal "kid things" -- than their peers. They also had more
depression symptoms and lower self-esteem.
The outlook was worst for the 3 percent to 4 percent of kids who
were continually bullied over time. By 10th grade, 45 percent of
teens who'd been chronically victimized fell into the category of
"low" mental well-being.
That compared with 31 percent of kids who reported current
bullying only, and 12 percent of those who'd been bullied in the
past only. Of students who'd never been regularly picked on, just 6
percent scored that low in psychological well-being.
The findings cannot prove that bullying caused kids' mental and
physical woes, Bogart said.
But, she added, her team accounted for some other factors that
can affect kids' odds of being bullied and their health, such as
obesity and chronic illnesses. They also factored in family income
and kids' race, gender and sexual orientation.
Bullying, itself, was still linked to worse well-being.
Plus, there is plenty of research pointing to the ill effects of
bullying -- and this study offers more evidence, according to David
Finkelhor, who directs the Crimes Against Children Research Center
at the University of New Hampshire, in Durham.
The study, published online Feb. 17 in
Pediatrics, "adds one more element to the growing priority
of preventing peer victimization and helping those affected by it,"
said Finkelhor. He was not involved in the research.
A limit of the study, he said, is that it had no information on
other types of victimization kids can face, such as abuse from
parents and witnessing domestic violence.
More and more, Finkelhor said, studies are showing that it's
those kids -- victimized in multiple ways -- who "carry the biggest
scars as they move on."
When it comes to bullying from peers, study author Bogart said,
the new findings underscore the importance of prevention, or
putting a stop to it as soon as possible.
She noted that most states now require schools to have
anti-bullying policies. The good news, Finkelhor said, is that
prevention programs are expanding "rapidly" in U.S. schools.
As for what parents can do, Bogart said they can look for signs
their child is being bullied. That includes signs of physical
bullying, like cuts and bruises -- and subtler signals, such as
acting withdrawn or not wanting to go to school.
But it's also important that kids learn not to be silent
bystanders to bullying, Bogart said. Both schools and parents, she
noted, can teach children to speak up when they see a classmate
being picked on.
For more advice, visit the U.S. Department of Health and Human
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