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Bullied Children Suffer Behavioral Problems

They're more likely to exhibit depression and to be antisocial

THURSDAY, Nov. 13, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- Young students plagued by bullying may be at greater risk for developing depression and antisocial behavior, says a study in the current issue of Child Development.

Researchers observed the playground interaction of 266 elementary school students from the start of kindergarten to the end of the first grade. The researchers counted all instances of aggression and victimization.

"Substantial rates of victimization were observed. On average, children were targets of peer physical or verbal harassment about once every three to six minutes," lead researcher James Snyder, of Wichita State University, says in a prepared statement.

He notes many kindergarten students are verbally and physically abused by their peers. But by the time students reach first grade, an increasing amount of that verbal and physical bullying is focused on a smaller group of perpetual victims.

"Some children experienced harassment with great regularity. Other children appeared to respond effectively to aggression by peers such that harassment experiences became increasingly intermittent," Snyder says.

He says more research needs to be done to better understand how some children learn to effectively deal with or avoid repeated bullying while others can't do that.

The study found boys who suffered increasing harassment were more likely to demonstrate antisocial and depressive behaviors. In turn, boys who were antisocial or depressed seemed to attract more bullying.

Girls who were bullied in kindergarten were more likely to engage in antisocial behavior at home as they grew older and to act increasingly depressed at school if the bullying continued.

Antisocial behavior by the boys seemed to offer them some short-term relief from bullying but increased the likelihood of bullying over the long term. On the other hand, antisocial behavior by girls made them more likely to be bullied over short-term and long-term.

Information about students' antisocial behaviors -- arguing, bullying and tantrams -- and how often the students seemed sad, lonely or withdrawn was provided by teachers and parents.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about dealing with bullying.

SOURCE: Center for the Advancement of Health, news release, Nov. 12, 2003
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