The negative physical and mental
effects tied to bullying among children and teens may accumulate throughout
the years, according to a new study.
that kids are being bullied
Researchers found that teens who had been bullied in the
past and those currently being bullied tended to have a lower quality of life,
compared to those who were bullied less or not at all.
This finding and previous research on the effects of
bullying suggest more rigorous work should be done on finding ways to intervene
and stop bullying, said the study's lead author. "I think this is
overwhelming support for early interventions and immediate interventions and
really advancing the science about interventions," Laura Bogart, from
Boston Children's Hospital, told Reuters Health.
Accumulation over the years
In the past, when researchers have surveyed students at one
point in time, children and teens who were being bullied tended to score lower
on measures of physical and mental health. But few studies have examined
whether the possible effects of bullying accumulate over the years, the
researchers write in the journal Paediatrics.
They analysed data from the Healthy Passages study, which
surveyed students in Alabama, California and Texas about how much bullying they
experienced and evaluated their physical and mental health. Overall, 4 297
students completed the surveys in the fifth, seventh and 10th grades.
Read: Bullying goes digital
The researchers found that about a third of the students had
been regularly bullied at some point during the course of the study. Generally,
those who had been bullied in the past scored better on measures of physical
and mental health, compared to those who were currently being bullied. Teens
who were bullied throughout their school career scored the worst.
For example, about 7% of 10th grade students who had never
been bullied scored low on mental health measures. That compared to 12% who had
been bullied in the past, 31% who were currently being bullied and almost 45%
of those who underwent persistent bullying.
About 8% of 10th grade students who were never bullied had
poor physical health, compared to 12% of those who were bullied in the past,
26% who were currently being bullied and 22% who were continuously bullied.
Poor mental health
Poor mental health included traits such as being sad, afraid
and angry, according to Bogart. Poor physical health included limitations like
not being able to walk far and not being able to pick up heavy objects. "I
think one key thing to take from this is that any adult that has any contact
with children... (should) know what the signs of bullying might be," Bogart
said. "This study tells us some of them, but not all of
them. There are physical signs, but they're not always
Read: Bullies are everywhere
For example, one non-physical sign that a young person is
being bullied is that the child doesn't want to go to school. Bogart also said
it's important for parents to know if their child falls into one of the groups
at high risk for bullying. Those groups include children with physical
disabilities, those who are overweight
and those who are lesbian,
gay, bisexual or questioning.
"I think this says – especially for parents – to be
really attuned to what's going on in their kids' lives by paying attention,
knowing what's going on during the school day and being aware so they'll notice
changes like these," she said.
and bullying are not the same