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Health & Parenting

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Beyond Teasing: One-Third of Today's Kids Involved in Bullying

WebMD Health News

April 24, 2001 -- Small for his age, and the new kid on the block, 13-year-old C.J. Woodard made one big mistake at his new school last December -- he started bragging.

"I'm better than you are at everything ... I can run faster, that type of thing," says his mom, Darlene Williams. "He does have a mouth." Unfortunately, C.J. picked the wrong kid, and ended up in a fight. "Within the first week I was in the principal's office," she tells WebMD. "After that, it just escalated.

"I've been to the principal, the school board, the police, the juvenile officers, the bus company, trying to get this taken care of," Williams says. "They beat him up on the bus, swipe his stuff at school, accost him in the halls. It's constant torment. Teasing is one thing, but this is pure mean-spirited behavior. He can't even go to the store by himself without them coming after him." All the kids have been suspended at one time or another, including C.J. for trying to defend himself. But the problem still persists.

A National Snapshot

Nearly one-third of kids in grades six through 10 are the victims of bullying, bullies themselves -- or both, says Tonja R. Nansel, PhD, a psychologist and epidemiologist with the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

Her study of almost 16,000 students in grades six through 10 -- in both public and private schools across the U.S. -- captures a picture of bullying today. It appears in this week's Journal of the American Medical Association.

"We're concerned about the prevalence," she tells WebMD. "Thirty percent of kids are having a significant problem with peer relationships. There's a lot of evidence that those relationships are a very important part of a child's development."

In an accompanying editorial, two experts in childhood violence call for greater attention, energy, and funding of bullying interventions in U.S. schools.

"Recent tragedies and many episodes of school violence have involved the issues of bullying and revenge," write Howard Spivak, MD, a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics' Task Force on Violence, and Deborah Prothrow-Stith, MD, professor of public health practice at the Harvard School of Public Health and author of the book, Deadly Consequences.

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