22 October 2012

Children With Mental Health Disorders More Likely To Be Identified As Bullies

Among school-aged children, bullying is a growing problem and concern for parents and teachers. It is defined as "an unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time. Bullying includes actions such as making threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone physically or verbally, and excluding someone from a group on purpose..."

Bullying can affect everyone; from the bully to those who are bullied. Even witnessing a bullying incident has a negative effect. Bullying is linked to problems with mental health, learning development, substance use, social interaction and suicide.

There are several types of behavior and actions that can be categorized as bullying. Some of these are:
  • Physical bullying - any kind of physical attack or aggressive physical contact. Property damage and stealing may also be considered physical bullying.
  • Verbal bullying - name calling, insults, inappropriate/offensive jokes or remarks about the person's race, orientation, belief, or handicap, sexually suggestive or abusive language are examples of verbal bullying
  • Indirect bullying - The victim is bullied through indirect channels such as spreading nasty stories about someone, exclusion from social groups, being made the subject of malicious rumours. This can lead to other types of bullying such as verbal or cyber bullying.
  • Cyber Bullying - Any type of bullying carried out by electronic medium such as through the internet and by email and sms text messaging.

Because of the rise in technology and communication, cyber bullying is quickly becoming the dominant form of bullying. It has the widest coverage and a more lasting impact than other forms of bullying since messages are extremely hard to delete and very easy to distribute.

In the United States, it is estimated that 160,000 children do not go to school everyday for fear of bullying. This averages out to 15% of all school absences. The 2011 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) indicates that, nationwide, 20% of students in grades 9–12 experienced bullying.

Link Between Mental Health Disorders And Bullying

A study presented at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) National Conference and Exhibition in New Orleans state that children who are diagnosed with mental health disorders such as depression and Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) are likely to be identified as a bully.

Video: Children With Mental Health Disorders More Likely To Be A Bully

This is one of the few studies that takes a view of the bully rather than the victims. Researchers used data provided by parents and guardians on mental health and bullying in the 2007 National Survey of Children's Health, which included nearly 64,000 children.

In her study, "Association Between Mental Health Disorders and Bullying in the United States Among Children Aged 6 to 17 Years,", author Frances G. Turcotte-Benedict, MD, a Brown University master's of public health student and a fellow at Hasbro Children's Hospital in Providence, RI., note that children with a diagnosis of depression were three times more likely to bully, while a diagnosis of Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) was associated with a six fold increase in the odds of being identified as a bully.

"These findings highlight the importance of providing psychological support not only to victims of bullying, but to bullies as well," said Turcotte-Benedict.

She further adds, "In order to create successful anti-bullying prevention and intervention programs, there certainly is a need for more research to understand the relationship more thoroughly, and especially, the risk profile of childhood bullies."


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