April 27, 2012

The Effects of Bullying on the Young

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Robert Carlson, M.D By:

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Self harm is more likely in young children who are victims of bullying

(dailyRx News) It isn’t easy to deal with a bully, and young children are often the victims. These young bullies probably don’t understand the effects, but the victims of bullying are more likely to hurt themselves.

According to a new study the victims of bullying are up to three times more likely to do harm to themselves by age 12.

"Talk to teachers and your child about bullying"

The study was led by Helen Fisher, PhD, of the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London.

“Bullying by peers is a major problem during the early school years. This study found that before 12 years of age a small proportion of children frequently exposed to this form of victimisation already deliberately harmed themselves and in some cases attempted to take their own lives,” say the study authors.

The study participants were members of the Environmental Risk study, which tracks 2,232 British twins born in 1994 or 1995. The researchers assessed the children at five, seven, ten, and twelve years old.

To assess bullying, mothers were interviewed when the child was seven and ten, and the child was interviewed as well at age twelve. At age twelve the mothers were also asked if the child had ever attempted suicide or harmed themselves.

The study found that of the 1904 children not bullied, 2 percent were involved with self harm. However, of the 237 who were frequent victims of bullying, 8 percent were involved with self harm.

For this study bullying was defined as when another child frequently says something hurtful, ignores or excludes, hits, kicks, tells lies or rumors, and other similarly hurtful behavior.

Self harm was defined as cutting or biting one’s own arms, pulling out own hair, hitting own head against walls, or similar self destructive activity - including attempted suicide.

The study authors note that the study size was small, and the results need to be duplicated with a larger sample size.

The study was published online on April 26th, 2012, in the journal BMJ and was funded by the Medical Research Council, the Economic and Social Research Council, the US National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the US National Institute of Mental Health, the British Academy, the Nuffield Foundation, and the Jacobs Foundation. 

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Reviewed by: 
Robert Carlson, M.D
Review Date: 
April 25, 2012

Last Updated:
May 7, 2012