August 17, 2006

Kids who witness abuse at home may bully others

By Anne Harding

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Children who witness abusive
behavior in the home are more likely to bully other children,
and are at greater risk of depression and anxiety, a new study

In comments to Reuters Health, Dr. Nerissa S. Bauer said
she hopes parents who are experiencing violence in the home and
who have young children "will consider the effects of the
violence on the children. It can manifest itself in various
different ways, one of which is actual physical bullying of
other children."

A number of studies have shown that children exposed to
domestic violence are at increased risk of behavior problems,
but there has been little specific research on bullying, noted
Bauer. In many ways, she added, bullying mirrors abusive
relationships between adults, in that it involves recurrent
aggression by a more powerful person over a less powerful one,
with the intent to harm.

In the current study, Bauer and colleagues from the
University of Washington in Seattle looked at the relationship
between exposure to intimate partner violence and bullying
involvement in 112 children aged 6 to 13. Half of their parents
reported perpetrating verbal, physical or sexual violence
against an intimate partner, or experiencing this type of
violence, at least once in the past five years.

About one-third of the children said they bullied other
children in the past year, with girls more likely to bully
others than boys. Nearly three-quarters of the children said
they had been victims of bullying by others.

Bauer's team found that children exposed to intimate
partner violence were no more likely to be victimized by others
or to exhibit relational-type bullying behavior, meaning
teasing or excluding others without physical violence.

However, they were more likely to be physically aggressive
to other children, and were more likely to report symptoms of
anxiety or depression.

"Teachers who deal with children who consistently bully
others may want to consider circumstances in that child's life
including the home environment," Bauer said.

SOURCE: Pediatrics, August 2006.