|Physical bullying at school, as depicted in the film Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
A few generations back one could hear a parent say to their child: “Stop being a bully!” It was something parents would say when they wanted one child to “stop picking” on another child. Teachers said it, too. The word “bully” has an interesting origin. It has evolved over centuries from the 16th century when it was a term of endearment meaning sweetheart, lover or brother to the late 17th century when it took on the meaning of blusterer or harasser of the weak.
Have you ever been bullied?
Chances are if you have to think about this question for more than 30 seconds, then you have never been bullied. But, more than likely, you have witnessed bullying. Parents see it, teachers see it, the school bus drivers see it, children see it…the child may not know they are witnessing the act of bullying, they just know someone is being hurt physically or emotionally. We all know it when we see it. It is also instinctive for the bullied person to hide the fact that they are a victim of a bully. Much research indicates the victim can begin to suffer from mental health disorders like fear, anxiety and depression.
New research suggests the bully may also have mental health disorders
This week the American Academy of Pediatrics held their national conference. One of studies presented was “Association Between Mental Health Disorders and Bullying In the United States Among Children Aged 6 to 17 Years.”
The study was led by Dr. Frances Turcotte-Benedict who is currently a master’s public health student at Brown University and a fellow at Hasbro Children’s Hospital in Providence. Her group reviewed data supplied by the 2007 National Survey of Children’s Health which had been provided by the parents of some 64,000 children ages 6 to 17. Of the 64,000 15% were identified as bullies. Their findings were, as follows:
- Children with mental health disorders are three times more likely to be identified as a bully compared to those with no mental health disorders.
- The diagnosis of oppositional defiance disorder (ODD) alone is associated with a six fold higher odds of being identified as a bully.
Video featuring Dr. Turcotte-Benedict discussing the research and bullying
If you are having trouble viewing the video, you can see it here.
So what is a parent to do?
This may seem like a rhetorical question, but really if you have a child who is being bullied or if you have a child who is the bully…what can you do, what should you do? Probably the first stop should be a visit to the pediatrician. So the fact that this research was presented at the National Academy Pediatrics Conference should indicate that health care professionals in general, and pediatricians specifically, want to learn more about bullying. After all, they frequently come face to face with the aftermath of bully. Second stop? Here is a useful website call Stop Bullying.gov. This site offers tips and guidelines for parents and teachers (and older children) on how to recognize bullying, discover who is at risk, and how to deal with bullying in every form. There is even information regarding the specific laws pertaining to bullying in your state. Third stop, stay connected by “liking” Stop Bullying on Facebook.
P.S. October is Bullying Prevention Month