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Bullying May Be Linked to Violence at Home

Study Shows Bullies and Victims of Bullying Are More Likely to Be Exposed to Violence at Home
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

April 21, 2011 -- Bullying is pervasive among middle school and high school students in Massachusetts and may be linked to family violence, according to a new report in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR).

Overall, 43.9% of middle school students and 30.5% of high school students in Massachusetts were involved in or affected by bullying in 2009. Specifically, 26.8% of middle school students said they were bullied, 7.5% said they were bullies, and 9.6% said they were “bully-victims,” meaning they had been bullies and bullied during 2009.

Among high school students, 15.6% reported being victims of bullying, 8.4% acknowledged they were bullies, and 6.5% said they were bully-victims in 2009.

Bullies, victims of bullying, and bully-victims were more likely to be exposed to violence at home, the study showed. In addition, kids who are involved in bullying are also more likely to abuse drugs or alcohol and are at higher risk for depression and/or suicide.

“Bullying is extremely prevalent and it is a public health problem because of its prevalence. And it doesn’t happen in isolation,” says study researcher Marci Hertz, a lead health scientist at the CDC in Atlanta. “Victims, perpetrators, or both are at increased risk for engaging in other sorts of behaviors.”

The 2009 Massachusetts Youth Health Survey asked participants two questions about bullying:

  • How many times in the past year had they been bullied at school, including teased, threatened, hit, kicked or excluded by another kid or group of students.
  • Did the students bully or push someone around or start a physical fight in the past year.

While the new study provides a snapshot of bullying in Massachusetts, the findings are likely applicable to other states, Hertz says.

Females were more likely to be victims of bullying in high school and middle school than males, but males were more likely to do the bullying, the study showed. Previous reports have shown that males were more likely to be both bullies and victims.

“This study is one of the first that examines the relationship between bullying and family violence,” she says. “Kids who are involved in bullying are also involved in substance abuse and have a family history of violence. Programs that are comprehensive and involve families and communities working in partnership with schools are needed to stop bullying.”

Red Flags for Bullying

Parents who are concerned that their child is a bully, being bullied, or both needs to get involved, Hertz says. “Talk to their school if there are changes in behavior or academic achievement or if a previously outgoing child has become withdrawn and is not wanting to go places.”

Bullying can also take place via text messaging, Facebook, and on other web sites. “Ask where your kids go online the same way that you ask where they are going when they leave the house,” she says.

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