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Persistent Childhood Bullying Associated with Poor Health Outcomes — Physician’s First Watch

Medical News |
February 18, 2014

Persistent Childhood Bullying Associated with Poor Health Outcomes

By Kelly Young

Children who are persistently bullied have worse physical and mental health outcomes than children who've never been bullied or those for whom bullying has stopped, according to a longitudinal study in Pediatrics.

Researchers assessed some 4300 students three times (in the 5th, 7th, and 10th grades). After adjustment for stigmatizing characteristics such as sexual orientation, children who were bullied had worse psychosocial and physical quality of life, depression scores, and self-worth at all ages. Outcomes were worst with chronic bullying. For instance, low psychological health was found in 45% of 10th graders who were bullied in the past and present, 31% who were currently being bullied, 12% who'd been bullied in the past only, and 7% who'd never been bullied.

The authors conclude: "This study reinforces the importance of not only intervening early to prevent ongoing bullying but also continuing to intervene if necessary, even when bullying is not ongoing, to address persistent effects. For example, clinicians can make mental health referrals when bullying first starts to stem long-term negative consequences and provide youth with skills to cope with future events."

Reader Comments (8)

Hooman M.D. Physician, Family Medicine/General Practice

Dear TRACY KOLENCHUK,
Please suppose that a child has lost her mother or father because of every reason and has low self-steem. Should you bully him/her because of him/er low self-steem ? What is him/er fault ? Are not we guilty to force some one with a primary injury to be harmed more than before because s/he has a low self-steem ? This is not fair. Everyone of us are responsible to have a good behavior so should be disciplined as such children should be done.

N Brough, MA

Let's not neglect the contribution of sibling abuse, which when severe (i.e. torture and sexual abuse), precipitates mood disorders, poor self-esteem, and PTSD. Very common in this population and takes years of psychotherapy to unravel.

DAVID DAVIS Physician, Surgery, General, retired

Conclusions are quite self-evident.

Anne Veneziano, JD Other, Health Law/Ethics/Public Policy, Cleveland, Ohio

As a mental health attorney, I represent those accused of bullying who are indicted in the juvenile justice delinquency system. I do all I can to make sure that they obtain counseling aimed at helping them to understsnd their role in the events that transpired. I also emphasize the need for them to control both their anger and their impulses. Unfortunately, many of these children and adolescents lack guidance and appropriate discipline from their patents or other caretakers. Many of the kids have been victims of abuse themselves. Without intervention the cycle just continues.

TRACY KOLENCHUK Other, Other, Healthicine.org

Duh.... Let's suppose I'm a bully. Who would I prefer to bully? Someone who has high self-esteem, and is likely to fight back? Or someone with low self-esteem, who I can pick on for days, weeks, possibly even years? The association between low self-esteem, depression, low self-worth could indicate that low self-esteem is a cause, or a contributor to bullying, not a 'result of' and that raising self-esteem lowers incidence of bullying more than any campaign against bullying.

Judith Ronat M. D. Physician, Psychiatry, Private Practice in Kfar Saba, Israel

This and similar articles use post hoc reasoning. It is very likely that bullying and characteristics of the victim are a loop in which each contributes to the other.

Linda Levasseur Other Healthcare Professional, Geriatrics, Self-employed

I can agree with this ..

Elias, M.D. Physician, Neurology, HFHS

Not to diminish the conclusion that bullying has a negative impact, but I wonder if the authors also looked at the possibility that certain characteristics, that may also be associated with poor health outcomes, made it more likely that an individual become the target for bullying. That is, the direct cause/effect relationship is less clear.

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