Bullying May Be Linked to Mental Disorders

MONDAY, Oct. 22 (HealthDay News) -- Children with mental health disorders are more likely than other kids to be bullies, a new study finds.

Researchers analyzed data from children ages 6 to 17 included in the 2007 U.S. National Survey of Children's Health and found that more than 15 percent were identified as bullies by a parent or guardian, and that children with mental health disorders were three times more likely than their peers to bully other children.

The researchers also focused on the link between specific mental health disorders and bullying. Depression was associated with a three-fold increased risk of being a bully, while a diagnosis of oppositional defiant disorder increased the risk six times.

The study was scheduled for presentation Monday at an American Academy of Pediatrics meeting in New Orleans.

"These findings highlight the importance of providing psychological support not only to victims of bullying, but to bullies as well," study author Dr. Frances Turcotte-Benedict, a Brown University master's of public health student and a fellow at Hasbro Children's Hospital in Providence, R.I., said in an AAP news release.

"In order to create successful anti-bullying prevention and intervention programs, there certainly is a need for more research to understand the relationship more thoroughly, and especially, the risk profile of childhood bullies," she added.

Bullying was defined as repetitive aggression involving a difference of power between the victim and perpetrator.

A 2011 nationwide survey found 20 percent of U.S. high school students were bullied during the preceding 12 months. It is well-established that victims of bullying are at increased risk for mental health illness and suicide, but few studies have examined the mental health status of bullies.

Data and conclusions presented at medical meetings should be considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.

-- Robert Preidt

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SOURCE: American Academy of Pediatrics, news release, Oct. 22, 2012