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Health & Parenting

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

A National Snapshot continued...

"Violence prevention, including bullying ... must be a priority for all who are concerned about the health of children and youth," say Spivak and Prothrow-Stith.

In Nansel's study, students completed a 102-question health survey that also contained questions about bullying, as well as a definition: "We say a student is being bullied when another student, or a group of students, say or do nasty and unpleasant things to him or her. It is also bullying when a student is teased repeatedly in a way he or she doesn't like. But it is not bullying when two students of about the same strength are involved in a quarrel or fight."

Students were asked whether they had ever bullied another student, or if they were bullied in school, how frequently it happened, and what form it took -- whether they were belittled about religion or race, about looks or speech, if they were hit, slapped, or pushed, if they were the subject of rumors or lies, or if they were subjected to sexual comments or gestures.

Almost 11% of the children who completed the survey reported bullying other kids to some degree, and 9% said they bullied other kids once a week or more, which Nansel calls "frequent."

Similar numbers of children reported being bullied: 8.5% were bullied "sometimes" and 8.4% were bullied once a week or more. Six percent of the kids said they were both a bully sometimes and a victim at other times. Bullying seems to be more prevalent among boys, and it happened more frequently in grades six through eight. For girls, being bullied meant being the object of rumors and sexual comments.

The Bottom Line to Bullying

Both bullies and their victims have psychological and social problems that must be addressed, says Nansel.

"Bullies are more likely to have difficulty in school, to smoke and drink alcohol, but they do have a group of kids they get along with," she tells WebMD. "Those kids may be other bullies, but they have some sort of social group." For the victims, the problems may be loneliness and difficulty fitting in with peers -- which makes them easy prey.

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