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Poor Parenting Styles Linked to Bullying

Being overprotective may be just as bad as being neglectful for spurring bully and victim roles

WebMD News from HealthDay

By Robert Preidt

HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, April 26 (HealthDay News) -- Parents may think they can keep their kids safe by hovering over them, but a new study finds that children of overprotective parents are more likely to be bullied.

And on the other end of the spectrum, having abusive or neglectful parents also seems to make kids a target for bullies, according to an analysis of 70 studies that included more than 200,000 children.

The effects of these types of poor parenting were stronger among children who were bullied and also bullied others (bully-victims) than among those who were bullied but did not bully others.

The review also found that negative or harsh parenting was associated with a moderate increase in the risk of children being bully-victims and a small increase in their risk of being a victim of bullying. Warm but firm parenting reduced children's risk of being bullied, the investigators noted.

The findings of the review, led by researchers at the University of Warwick in England, are published in the April 25 issue of the journal Child Abuse & Neglect.

"Although parental involvement, support and high supervision decrease the chances of children being involved in bullying, for victims overprotection increased this risk," Dieter Wolke, one of the review authors, said in a university news release.

"Children need support but some parents try to buffer their children from all negative experiences," he said. "In the process, they prevent their children from learning ways of dealing with bullies and make them more vulnerable.

"It could be that children with overprotective parents may not develop qualities such as autonomy and assertion, and therefore may be easy targets for bullies," Wolke said. "But it could also be that parents of victims become overprotective of their children. In either case, parents cannot sit on the school bench with their children."

Children of parents who establish clear rules about behavior but are also supportive and emotionally warm are least likely to be bullied, the study authors said.

"These parents allow children to have some conflicts with peers to learn how to solve them rather than intervene at the smallest argument," Wolke said.

"People often assume bullying is a problem for schools alone but it's clear from this study that parents also have a very important role to play," he said. "We should therefore target intervention programs not just in schools but also in families to encourage positive parenting practices such as warmth, affection, communication and support."

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