Bullies Need Love Too

Children with mental health disorders three times more likely to be a bully

(RxWiki News) Most of the discussion about bullying focuses on a bully's victims. But the bullies themselves may be dealing with their own issues which contribute to their bad behavior.

A recent study found that children with psychiatric conditions were three times more likely to be called bullies. About 15 percent of the children were identified by their parent or guardian as being bullies.

The unpublished study was presented at a national conference of pediatricians.

"Check in with your kids."

The study, by Frances G. Turcotte-Benedict, MD, an MPH student at the Public Health Program and Department of Pediatric Emergency Medicine at Brown University, aimed to find out whether mental health issues were more prevalent among young "bullies."

Dr. Turcotte-Benedict examined parent-provided data on 63,997 children, aged 6 to 17, from the 2007 National Survey of Children's Health.

When Dr. Turcotte-Benedict compared these children's mental health diagnoses identified in the survey to those of the other children, he found a link between mental health disorders and likelihood of bullying.

Overall, kids with psychiatric conditions were three times more likely to be a bully, but the rates varied according to the particular disorder.

A diagnosis of depression is linked to a slightly higher risk of being a bully — about 3.3 times higher than having no depression, after taking into account a child's gender, age, race/ethnicity, neighborhood safety and quality of parent-child communication.

Anxiety and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) were about a threefold risk, but children with oppositional defiance disorder (ODD) were six times more likely to be bullies.

"This finding emphasizes the importance of providing psychological support to not only victims of bullying but bullies as well," Dr. Turcotte-Benedict wrote.

"Understanding the risk profile of childhood bullies is essential in gaining a better understanding of this public health problem and in creating useful and appropriate resources and interventions to decrease bullying."

The study was presented October 22 at the American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference and Exhibition in New Orleans.

No information was available regarding funding or disclosure. The results of the study are preliminary and have not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Review Date: 
October 23, 2012