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Witnesses to Bullying May Suffer Most of All

Students who saw others abused were most likely to report mental distress, study finds

THURSDAY, Dec. 17, 2009 (HealthDay News) -- Students who watch others being bullied may suffer even more than the victims or the perpetrators, a new British study suggests.

"It's well-documented that children and adolescents who are exposed to violence within their families or outside of school are at a greater risk for mental health problems than those children who are not exposed to any violence," study author Ian Rivers said in a news release. "It should not be a surprise that violence at school will pose the same kind of risk."

Researchers, who reported their findings in the December issue of School Psychology Quarterly, surveyed 2,002 students aged 12 to 16 attending 14 schools in England. The students answered questions about various types of bullying, such as name-calling and hitting, during the previous nine-week school term.

Nearly two-thirds said they had seen other students being bullied, while about one-third said they were victims and one in five acknowledged being bullies, the study authors noted.

Those who witnessed more bullying reported more mental distress than even the bullies and victims, according to the report.

"It is possible that those students who had been victimized at different times may be experiencing it all over again psychologically," said Rivers. "Meanwhile, those who are witnesses may worry that they, too, will be the bully's target sometime in the future, and that causes great distress and anxiety."

More information

Visit Stop Bullying Now! from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

SOURCE: American Psychological Association, news release, Dec. 14, 2009
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