July 6, 2006

Bullied kids have more behavioral problems

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Children who are bullied during
their early school years may experience behavior problems as a
result, new study findings suggest.

"Our results indicate that bullying victimization in the
early school years is an influential experience for a child's
behavioral development and mental health problems," study
author Dr. Louise Arseneault, of King's College, London, and
her colleagues write.

"Prevention and intervention programs aimed at reducing
mental health problems during childhood should target bullying
as an important risk factor," they add.

According to previous research, victimization may be
associated with mental health problems in adults. It is also
known that some mental health problems in adults stem from poor
mental health in childhood. In the current study, Arseneault
and her team investigated bullying in childhood, looking at the
extent to which bullying contributed to later adjustment

They analyzed information for 2,232 subjects who
participated in home-visit assessments at 5 years old and
follow-up assessments at age 7.

Those assessments revealed that the majority of children
had never bullied another child or experienced bullying between
ages 5 and 7. However, 14.4 percent were "pure victims" and 6.2
percent were "bully/victims," children who had been bullied and
who also victimized others. Another 1,387 children who were not
involved in bullying served as a comparison, or "control,"

Both groups of children had significantly more behavior
problems and problems adjusting in school at 7 years old,
compared with the control children, the investigators report in
the journal Pediatrics.

Pure victims had more internalizing problems, such as being
withdrawn, anxious or depressed, and were also more unhappy at
school compared with children in the control group.

Bully/victims also had internalizing problems. In addition,
they had fewer prosocial behaviors, such as being considerate
of other people's feelings; and were less happy at school at
age 7 compared with the pure victims and children in the
control group.

In light of their findings, "bullying could be regarded as
a stressful life event that might influence children's normal
development," Arseneault and her co-authors conclude.

SOURCE: Pediatrics, July 2006.