*This post originally appeared on The PediaBlog on August 3, 2015.
Bullying: Causes And Effects
We’ve said it here before and we’ll say it again: Bullying is never right, always wrong, and completely unacceptable.
Some recent studies regarding bullying in kids are worth reviewing. The first study, published in Pediatrics, makes an important association: Children who are involved in bullying have a higher risk of suicidal thoughts and actions than those who are not. Those who fit the category of perpetrator-victims (bullies who are bullied themselves) had the highest risk. Randy Dotinga drills down:
According to the study, prior research has suggested that so-called “bully victims” — kids who fall into both categories of bully and victim — are often more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety compared to bullies and victims of bullying.
In the new analysis, these “bully victims” had four times the odds of suicidal thoughts and behaviors, compared to those who weren’t exposed to bullying.
Victims (only) of bullying had odds for suicidal thoughts and behaviors that were more than twice that of people not bullied, and rates were similar for people who were bully perpetrators only.
Another study, published this month in the Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, suggests that toddlers who spend too much time watching television are at an increased risk of being bullied when they get older. Linda Carroll says that the more hours of TV watching correlated to a higher risk of victimization:
Pagani and her colleagues followed 991 girls and 1,006 boys who were taking part in the Quebec Longitudinal Study of Child Development. When the children were 29 months old, the researchers queried parents about the kids’ TV viewing habits, including DVD watching. Parents were also asked about their children’s behavior — how impulsive or aggressive they were, for example.
Then in the sixth grade, the children filled out a survey that asked questions about how frequently other children called them names or said mean things to them; how often they were excluded from play; how often they were pushed, hit or kicked; how often other children made fun of them or laughed at them, and how often they were forced to give up something that belonged to them.
When the researchers analyzed the two sets of data, they found that for each additional hour a child watched TV, there was an increase of 11 percent in the amount of bullying they experienced in middle school.
Finally, researchers conducted a multinational survey to identify the most common reason children get bullied. You might be surprised that it’s not race or religion, nor is it physical or cognitive disabilities, or even differences in sexual orientation. The most common reason for bullying in children is being “fat” and, according to Roni Rabin, kids get the license to bully from the biases that adults project:
[M]ost state anti-bullying laws don’t protect overweight children, said Rebecca Puhl, deputy director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at the University of Connecticut in Hartford and the lead author of the report, the first cross-national study investigating weight-based bullying, published in Pediatric Obesity.
There are no federal laws that guarantee equal treatment of people who are overweight or obese.
“It is actually legal to discriminate on the basis of weight, and that sends a message that bias, unfair treatment or bullying of overweight children is tolerable,” Dr. Puhl, a professor of human development and family studies at UConn, said.
Rabin says such biases go far beyond the schoolyard:
Obese teenage girls get less financial support for college from their parents than girls who aren’t obese, and obese workers earn less than non-obese workers, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report on weight bias authored by Dr. Reginald L. Washington, the chief medical officer of Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children in Denver.
The C.D.C. report reviewed current research and found bias among physicians, educators, family members and peers. A study of more than 400 doctors, for example, found that one in three listed obesity as a condition they responded negatively to, ranking it just behind drug addiction, mental illness and alcoholism. The C.D.C. also cited research showing that families often pick on overweight family members; nearly half of overweight girls report being teased about their weight by family members.