Kids who bully others and kids who are victimized by bullies each face an increased risk of psychiatric disorders by early adulthood, according to a study recently published in the journal Pediatrics. According to comprehensive study data, frequent bullying behavior in childhood reliably predicted antisocial personality, substance abuse, and depressive and anxiety disorders. Frequent episodes of victimization predicted future anxiety disorders in adolescence. Data collection for the study began in 1989 on 2,540 boys born in 1981. Information about bullying behavior was gathered from parents, teachers and children when the boys were 8 years old, and final mental health outcomes were determined from medical records and psychiatric evaluations of the boys when they were between the ages of 18 and 23.
Bullying can’t always be prevented, but once it has occurred, addressing it becomes a matter of some urgency. According to experts at the Mayo Clinic, bullying is becoming a more common phenomenon. According to the organization, examples of bullying behavior may include:
- “Hitting, punching and kicking
- Destruction of a child’s property
- Racial slurs
- Spreading malicious rumors
- Exclusion from groups or activities
- E-mail threats
- Harassing phone calls
- Intimidating or threatening Web sites or blogs
- Unwanted sexual jokes or comments
- Sexual name-calling
- Spreading sexual rumors
- Grabbing or touching students in a sexual manner
- Pulling clothing down or off”
They also recommend the following interventions for the parents of a child who has been victimized by a bully:
- “Encourage your child to talk about the bullying. Listen in a loving manner. Don’t let your child see that you’re upset, which can make the situation worse.
- Tell your child that he or she isn’t to blame for being bullied. Don’t assume that your child did something to provoke or aggravate a school bully. A bully often picks on someone for no reason at all.
- Support your child’s feelings. Instead of dismissing their concerns or simply telling him or her that it’ll work out eventually, express understanding and concern, such as saying, “I understand you’re having a rough time. Let’s work together to deal with this.”
- Ask your child if he or she has ideas about how to stop the bullying.
- Don’t encourage retaliation against a bully.
- Teach your child safety skills when bullying occurs. This may include knowing where to turn for immediate help, how to be assertive, using humor to defuse a situation and appropriate diplomacy skills, such as agreeing with taunts that an item of clothing is ugly, for instance.
- Consider professional or school counseling for your child if fear or anxiety becomes overwhelming.
- Gather as much information as possible about the bullying. Ask your child to describe how and when the bullying occurs and who is involved. Ask you child if other children or adults have witnessed any bullying incidents.
- Talk to your child’s educators, including teachers and principals. Work together to find real solutions now. Don’t contact the bully’s parents yourself. Let the school handle that potentially sensitive situation.
- If your child has been physically attacked or is threatened with harm, talk to school officials immediately to help determine if police should be involved.”
Previously on the D.C. Metro Area Personal Injury Law Blog, we have posted articles related to:
- School safety tips
- General safety guidelines for returning to school
- Tips to limit your child’s risk at daycare
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