1. Cyberbullying rarely occurs in isolation, research finds

    March 20, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of Warwick press release:

    Cyberbullying is mostly an extension of playground bullying — and doesn’t create large numbers of new victims — according to research from the University of Warwick.

    Professor Dieter Wolke in the Department of Psychology finds that although cyberbullying is prevalent and harmful, it is a modern tool used to harm victims already bullied by traditional, face-to-face means.

    In a study of almost 3000 pupils aged 11-16 from UK secondary schools, twenty-nine percent reported being bullied, but one percent of adolescents were victims of cyberbullying alone.

    During the survey, pupils completed the Bullying and Friendship Interview, which has been used in numerous studies to assess bullying and victimization.

    They were asked about direct victimisation (e.g., “been hit/beaten up” or “called bad/nasty names”); relational victimization (e.g., “had nasty lies/rumours spread about you”); and cyber-victimization (e.g., “had rumours spread about you online,” “had embarrassing pictures posted online without permission,” or “got threatening or aggressive emails, instant messages, text messages or tweets”).

    All the teenagers who reported being bullied in any form had lower self-esteem, and more behavioural difficulties than non-victims.

    However, those who were bullied by multiple means — direct victimisation, relational victimisation and cyber-victimisation combined — demonstrated the lowest self-esteem and the most emotional and behavioural problems.

    The study finds that cyberbullying is “another tool in the toolbox” for traditional bullying, but doesn’t create many unique online victims.

    As a result, Professor Wolke argues that public health strategies to prevent bullying overall should still mainly focus on combatting traditional, face-to-face bullying — as that is the root cause of the vast majority of cyberbullying.

    Professor Wolke comments, “Bullying is a way to gain power and peer acceptance, being the ‘cool’ kid in class. Thus, cyber bullying is another tool that is directed towards peers that the bully knows, and bullies, at school.

    “Any bullying prevention and intervention still needs to be primarily directed at combatting traditional bullying while considering cyberbullying as an extension that reaches victims outside the school gate and 24/7.”

    The research is published in European Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.


  2. Childhood bullying may lead to increased chronic disease risk in adulthood

    March 14, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Wolters Kluwer Health media release:

    Being bullied during childhood might have lifelong health effects related to chronic stress exposure — including an increased risk for heart disease and diabetes in adulthood, according to a research review in the March/April issue of the Harvard Review of Psychiatry. The journal is published by Wolters Kluwer.

    Recent advances in understanding of the negative health effects of chronic stress highlight a pressing need to clarify the longer-term health implications of childhood bullying, according to the review by Susannah J. Tye, PhD, of the Mayo Clinic and colleagues. “Bullying, as a form of chronic social stress, may have significant health consequences if not addressed early,” Dr. Tye comments. “We encourage child health professionals to assess both the mental and physical health effects of bullying.”

    Health Impact of Bullying — What’s the Evidence?

    “Once dismissed as an innocuous experience of childhood, bullying is now recognized as having significant psychological effects, particularly with chronic exposure,” Dr. Tye and co-authors write. Bullying has been linked to an increased risk of psychiatric disorders, although there are still questions about the direction of that association.

    Bullied children also have increased rates of various physical symptomsrecurrent and unexplained symptoms may be a warning sign of bullying. Dr. Tye comments, “It is important that we appreciate the biological processes linking these psychological and physiological phenomena, including their potential to impact long-term health.”

    Studies of other types of chronic stress exposure raise concerns that bullying — “a classic form of chronic social stress” — could have lasting effects on physical health. Any form of continued physical or mental stress can put a strain on the body, leading to increasing “wear and tear.” This process, called allostatic load, reflects the cumulative impact of biological responses to ongoing or repeated stress — for example, the “fight or flight” response.

    “When an individual is exposed to brief periods of stress, the body can often effectively cope with the challenge and recover back to baseline,” Dr. Tye explains. “Yet, with chronic stress, this recovery process may not have ample opportunity to occur, and allostatic load can build to a point of overload. In such states of allostatic overload, physiological processes critical to health and well-being can be negatively impacted.”

    With increasing allostatic load, chronic stress can lead to changes in inflammatory, hormonal, and metabolic responses. Over time, these physiological alterations can contribute to the development of diseases — including depression, diabetes, and heart disease — as well as progression of psychiatric disorders.

    Early-life stress exposure can also affect the way in which these physiological systems respond to future stressors. This may occur in part through epigenetic changes — alterations in gene function related to environmental exposures — that alter the stress response itself. Chronic stress may also impair the child’s ability to develop psychological skills that foster resilience, reducing their capacity to cope with future stress.

    The authors emphasize that although no cause-and-effect relationship can be shown so far. Future research — in particular, collaborations between clinical and basic science researchers — could have important implications for understanding, and potentially intervening in, the relationship between childhood bullying and long-term health.

    Dr. Tye and colleagues believe that current research shows the importance of addressing bullying victimization as a “standard component” of clinical care for children — at the primary care doctor’s office as well as in mental health care. They conclude, “Asking about bullying…represents a practical first step towards intervening to prevent traumatic exposure and reduce risk for further psychiatric and related morbidities.”


  3. Flame retardant chemicals may affect social behavior in young children

    March 12, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Oregon State University press release:

    Some chemicals added to furniture, electronics and numerous other goods to prevent fires may have unintended developmental consequences for young children, according to a pilot study released today.

    Researchers from Oregon State University found a significant relationship between social behaviors among children and their exposure to widely used flame retardants, said Molly Kile, an environmental epidemiologist and associate professor in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences at OSU.

    “When we analyzed behavior assessments and exposure levels, we observed that the children who had more exposure to certain types of the flame retardant were more likely to exhibit externalizing behaviors such as aggression, defiance, hyperactivity, inattention and bullying,” said Kile, the corresponding author of the study, which was published today in the journal Environmental Health.

    “This is an intriguing finding because no one had previously studied the behavioral effects of organophosphate classes of flame retardants, which have been added to consumer products more recently.”

    Flame retardants are found throughout the built environment in furniture, mattresses, carpeting, electronics, vehicles and more. The chemicals are added to the products and are not bound in the material, which causes them to be released into indoor environments.

    Manufacturers began adding flame retardants in 1975, in response to new legislation in California designed to reduce flammability in common household items. The state updated its flammability standards in 2014, and now allows furniture manufacturers to meet the standards without adding flame retardant chemicals to their products, but the chemicals are still widely used and they linger in the indoor environment.

    There are growing concerns that some flame retardants may have unintended impacts on health and development in children, and this study contributes to that body of research.

    The most common types of flame retardants found in the built environment are brominated diphenyl ethers (BDEs) and organophosphate-based flame retardants (OPFRs). OPFRs emerged as an alternative to BDEs in an effort to address some of the environmental health concerns posed by BDEs, which tend to remain in the environment for long periods.

    Past research has shown that both BDEs and OPFRs are linked to poorer cognitive function in children. But less is known about the relationship between the flame retardants and children’s social and emotional health, particularly during early childhood, a key developmental period for learning.

    “The social skills children learn during preschool set the foundation for their success in school, and also for their social and emotional health and well-being later in life,” said Shannon Lipscomb, an associate professor and lead of the human development and family sciences program at OSU-Cascades and a co-author of the study.

    For this study, the OSU research team recruited 92 Oregon children between ages 3-5 to wear a silicone wristband for seven days to measure exposure to flame retardants.

    The team included Kile, Lipscomb; Megan McClelland and Megan MacDonald of the OSU College of Public Health and Human Sciences; Kim Anderson of the OSU College of Agricultural Sciences; and Andres Cardenas of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and an OSU doctoral graduate. The research was supported by OSU’s Hallie E. Ford Center for Healthy Children and Families and the Environmental Health Science Center at OSU.

    The wristbands, developed by Anderson at OSU, have a porous surface that mimics a cell, absorbing chemicals that people are exposed to through their environment. When the wristbands are returned, Anderson can screen for up to 1,200 chemicals that may accumulate. The wristband is an easy and non-invasive way to sample children’s chemical exposure.

    The researchers had parents or primary caregivers complete questionnaires about socio-demographics and the home environment, and preschool teachers completed behavior assessments for each participating child. In all, researchers had complete data and wristband results for 69 children.

    Their analysis showed that all of the children were exposed to some level of flame retardant. Children who had higher exposure rates of OFPRs showed less responsible behavior and more aggression, defiance, hyperactivity, inattention and bullying behaviors. Children with higher exposure to BDEs were seen as less assertive by their teachers. All of these social skills play an important role in a child’s ability to succeed academically and socially.

    “We detected these links between flame retardant and children’s social behaviors while controlling for differences in family demographics, home learning environments and adversity,” Lipscomb said. “This suggests that flame retardants may have a unique effect on development apart from the effects of children’s early social experiences.”

    Further study is needed to better understand the links between flame retardants and children’s social skill development, the researchers said. They plan to pursue funding for a new study that continues for a longer period of time and considers how other aspects of children’s lives might affect the impact of flame retardants on their development.

    “The results of this research to date have shown potential impacts for child health and warrant a more thorough investigation,” Kile said.”If scientists find strong evidence that exposure to flame retardants affects children’s behaviors, we can develop strategies that prevent these exposures and help improve children’s lives. This type of public health science is needed to figure out how to address the root causes of behavioral concerns that can affect children’s school readiness and overall well-being.”


  4. Victimized adolescents more at risk of thinking about suicide or attempting suicide at 15

    October 17, 2016 by Ashley

    From the Elsevier media release:

    school_bully

    A study to be published in the February 2016 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (JAACAP) reports that adolescents chronically victimized during at least two school years, are about five times more at risk of thinking about suicide and 6 times more at risk of attempting suicide at 15 years compared to those who were never victimized.

    This is the first study to show a predictive association between victimization, suicidal ideation and suicide attempt in mid-adolescence. It also takes into account a variety of factors, including previous suicidality, mental health problems (by the age of 12 years) such as depression, opposition/defiance and inattention/hyperactivity problems, as well as family adversity.

    Using data from the Quebec Longitudinal Study of Child Development, which followed a general population sample of 1168 children born in 1997-98 in Quebec (Canada) until they were 15 years old, a group of researchers led by Dr. Marie-Claude Geoffroy of the CIUSSS de l’Ouest-de-l’Île-de-Montréal (Douglas Mental Health University Institute, McGill Group for Suicide Studies) and the Sainte-Justine Hospital Research Centre examined the relationship between victimization by peers, suicidal ideation and suicide attempt. The authors hypothesized that children victimized by their peers would be at higher risks of suicidal ideation and suicide attempt compared to non-victims.

    Overall, approximately 20% of the study participants report being exposed to victimization by their peers. Peer victimization includes actions such as being called names, spreading rumours, excluding someone from a group on purpose, attacking someone physically or cyberbullying. According to the authors, victims reported higher rates of suicidal ideation at age 13 and 15 (respectively 11.6% and 14.7%) compared to those who had not been victimized (2.7% at 13 and 4.1% at 15). The authors also observed higher rates of suicide attempt for the victimized adolescents at age 13 and 15 (5.4 % and 6.8%) compared to non-victims (1.6% at 13 and 1.9% at 15). In particular, the data showed that 13 years old adolescents who had been victimized by their peers have two times more risk of having suicidal ideation two years later and three times more at risks of suicide attempt.

    The authors point out that although victimization predicts suicidality it does not necessarily cause it, and this prediction does not apply to all individuals. Only a minority of victims will later develop suicidal ideation or make a suicide attempt. Why these adverse experiences affect individuals remains to be investigated.

    Adolescence is a crucial period for suicide prevention. As a result, the authors suggest that effective interventions may require a multidisciplinary effort involving parents, schoolteachers, principals, and mental health professionals. All adolescents, victimized or not, who think often and/or seriously about suicide should see a mental health professional such as a psychiatrist, a psychologist, or an accredited psychotherapist.


  5. Interventional policies and practices needed to prevent bullying and its harm

    May 13, 2016 by Ashley

    From the National Academy of Sciences media release:

    school_bullyBullying is a serious public health problem, with significant short- and long-term psychological consequences for both the targets and perpetrators of such behavior, and requires a commitment to developing preventive and interventional policies and practices that could make a tangible difference in the lives of many children, says a new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

    The programs that appear most effective are those that promote a positive school environment and combine social and emotional skill-building for all students, with targeted interventions for those at greatest risk for being involved in bullying. There is emerging research that widely used zero-tolerance policies — those that impose automatic suspension or expulsion of students from school after one bullying incident — are not effective at curbing bullying or making schools safer and should be discontinued. Instead, resources should be directed to evidence-based policies and programs for bullying prevention in the United States.

    Until recently, most bullying typically occurred at school or other places where children play or congregate, but an abundance of new technologies has led to cyberbullying, through chat rooms, social media, and other forms of digital communication.

    Although it is difficult to determine the extent of bullying due to definitional and measurement inconsistencies, bullying likely affects between 18 percent and 31 percent of children and youth, and the prevalence of cyberbullying ranges from 7 percent to 15 percent. Estimates are even higher for subgroups who are particularly vulnerable, such as individuals who have disabilities, are obese, or are LGBT. In addition, children with fewer same-ethnicity peers at school appear to be at greater risk for being targets of bullying.

    Adolescents who are bullied experience a range of physical problems, including sleep disturbances, gastrointestinal concerns, and headaches. Although the full consequences of bullying on the brain are not yet understood entirely, there are changes in the stress response systems associated with being bullied that increase the risk of mental health problems, including cognitive function and self-regulation of emotions. Being bullied during childhood and adolescence has been linked to psychological effects such as depression, anxiety, and alcohol and drug abuse into adulthood.

    Youth who bully others are more likely to be depressed, engage in high-risk activities such as theft and vandalism, and have adverse outcomes later in life compared with those who do not bully, the report says. In addition, individuals who bully others and are themselves bullied appear to be at greatest risk for poor psychological and social outcomes. Children involved in bullying as perpetrators, targets, or both are also significantly more likely to contemplate or attempt suicide. However, there is not enough evidence to conclude that bullying is a causal factor in youth suicides. The committee that conducted the study and wrote the report also examined the relationship between bullying and school shootings, concluding that the data are unclear on the role of bullying as a precipitating cause of these shootings.

    Zero-tolerance policies may lead to underreporting of bullying incidents because the consequence is perceived as too harsh, the committee found. The effects of school-based programs that involve all students regardless of their risk for bullying or being bullied — such as counselors or teachers presenting strategies for responding to bullying — appear to be relatively modest. Multi-component programs that combine elements of these programs along with more targeted interventions for youth at risk of bullying or being bullied — for example, teaching more intensive social-emotional skills or de-escalation approaches — appear to be most effective at reducing bullying.

    Families play a critical role in bullying prevention by providing emotional support to encourage disclosure of bullying incidents and by fostering coping skills in their children, the report says. However, the role of peers in bullying prevention as bystanders and as intervention program leaders needs further research to determine the extent to which peer-led programs are effective.

    Laws and policies have the potential to strengthen state and local efforts to prevent, identify, and respond to bullying, the report says. Over the past 15 years, all 50 states and the District of Columbia have adopted or revised laws to address bullying, and all except Alaska include cyberbullying in their statutes. The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, the state attorneys general, and local education agencies should partner with researchers to collect data on an ongoing basis on the efficacy and implementation of anti-bullying laws and policies, in order to guide legislators who may amend existing laws or create new ones.

    Given the varying use of the terms “bullying” and “peer victimization” in research and practice, for this report, the committee used the current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention definition: Bullying is any unwanted aggressive behavior(s) by another youth or group of youths who are not siblings or current dating partners that involves an observed or perceived power imbalance and is repeated multiple times or is highly likely to be repeated, and bullying may inflict harm or distress on the targeted youth including physical, psychological, social, or educational harm. The departments of Education, Health and Human Services, Justice, Agriculture, and Defense, and the Federal Trade Commission, which are engaged in the Federal Partners in Bullying Prevention (FPBP) interagency group, should foster use of a consistent definition of bullying, the report says.

    The committee also recommended federal agencies work with relevant stakeholders to sponsor the development, implementation, and evaluation of evidence-based programs to address bullying behavior and bullying prevention training for professionals and volunteers who work directly with children and adolescents on a regular basis. In addition, social media companies should partner with the FPBP Steering Committee to adopt, implement, and evaluate on an ongoing basis policies and programs for preventing, identifying, and responding to bullying on their platforms and should publish their anti-bullying policies on their websites.

    The agencies engaged in the FPBP interagency group should gather longitudinal surveillance data on the prevalence of all forms of bullying, including physical, verbal, relational, property, cyber, and bias-based bullying, and the numbers of individuals involved in bullying, including targets, perpetrators, and bystanders, in order to have more uniform and accurate estimates of prevalence.

    Bullying has long been tolerated as a rite of passage among children and adolescents, but it has lasting negative consequences and cannot simply be ignored,” said committee chair Frederick Rivara, Seattle Children’s Hospital Guild Endowed Chair in Pediatric Research and professor of pediatrics and epidemiology at the University of Washington. “This is a pivotal time for bullying prevention, and while there is not a quick fix or one-size-fits-all solution, the evidence clearly supports preventive and interventional policy and practice.”


  6. Girls more likely to be cyber-bullying victims

    March 1, 2016 by Ashley

    From the Taylor & Francis media release:

    cyberbullyNew research published in Cogent Social Sciences has found that in some situations, moderate internet users are more likely to be exposed to cyber-bullying than heavy internet users.

    In Bullying, cyber-bullying and Internet usage among young people in post-conflict Belfast, authors Francesca Savoldi, University of Lisbon, and Pedro Ferraz de Abreu, University of Aveiro, surveyed young people in the post-conflict city of Belfast about their experience of both offline, and online, bullying.

    In certain steps of the transition in a divided city, cyberspace seems to constitute a new place for increasing verbal offence,” said Francesca Savoldi. ‘This may be because the internet allows bullies to remain anonymous and avoid immediate physical confrontation.”

    Bullying took the form of harassment, threats of violence, sectarianism and vulgar messages, with much online bullying seemingly a continuation of offline behaviours. And while young men were more likely to be the victims of bullying in the real world, young women reported higher levels of cyber-bullying.


  7. Psychology study explains when and why bystanders intervene in cyberbullying

    January 21, 2016 by Ashley

    From the University of California – Los Angeles media release:

    cyberbullyPeople on social media are often unsupportive of cyberbullying victims who have shared highly personal feelings, UCLA psychologists report.

    Compared to face-to-face situations, bystanders are even less likely to intervene with online bullying. The researchers wanted to learn why bystanders are infrequently supportive of when bullying occurs online.

    In a new study, the researchers created a fictitious Facebook profile of an 18-year-old named Kate, who, in response to a post, received a mean comment — “Who cares! This is why nobody likes you” — from a Facebook friend named Sarah. That comment gets six likes.

    The study involved 118 people, ages 18 to 22, from throughout the United States, 58 percent of the participants were female, and were recruited through Amazon Mechanical Turk. They were randomly divided into four groups; each group saw Sarah’s nasty comment in response to a different Facebook post from Kate. Across the four groups, Kate’s Facebook post varied in level of personal disclosure (more or less personal) and whether it was positive or negative.

    Two groups saw Kate make a highly personal disclosure about a relationship. “I hate it when you miss someone like crazy and you think they might not miss you back :(” (negative) or “I love it when you like someone like crazy and you think they might like you back :)” (positive).

    The other two groups saw Kate make a less personal comment about the popular HBO program, “Game of Thrones.” “I hate it when a Game of Thrones episode ends and you have to wait a whole week to watch more :(” or “I love it when a Game of Thrones episode ends and you can’t wait until next week to watch more :).”

    Participants then responded to questions about how much they blamed Kate for being cyberbullied, how much empathy they had for Kate and how likely they would be to support her.

    Although the majority of participants considered Sarah’s comment an example of cyberbullying, they varied in their responses to Kate’s being bullied depending on her original post. Regardless of whether Kate’s post was positive or negative, participants viewed Kate more negatively when she posted a highly personal disclosure.

    “We found that when the Facebook post is a more personal expression of the victim’s feelings, participants showed lower levels of empathy and felt Kate was more to blame for being cyberbullied,” said Hannah Schacter, a UCLA graduate student in developmental psychology, and lead author of the study, which is published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior.

    Participants were asked, on a scale of one to five, whether they “felt for” Kate and whether they blamed Kate for Sarah’s criticism of her. Although the differences were small (about one third of point), they showed a consistent pattern of less forgiving responses when Kate posted about her personal issues as opposed to about Game of Thrones.

    The authors found that victim-blaming and empathy for the victim influenced whether participants would intervene by sending a supportive message to the bullying victim (Kate), posting a supportive message, or posting that they disagree with the bully’s comment. When participants felt that Kate deserved to be bullied and felt less empathy for her, they were less likely to express support for the victim.

    “The emotional reactions toward Kate help explain whether online bystanders are likely to support the victim,” said Jaana Juvonen, a UCLA professor of psychology and senior author of the research.

    “Our study suggests oversharing of personal information leads bystanders to blame and not feel for the victim,” Schacter said.

    On social media websites, there appear to be unwritten rules about what is acceptable, and this study suggests that oversharing personal emotions or information violates these rules, she said.

    “Young people need to understand that by revealing personal issues publicly online, they may make themselves more vulnerable to attacks from those seeking to harm others,” Juvonen said.

    Sharing your feelings with a close friend is quite different from publicly sharing with many people who don’t know you well.

    However, Schacter and Juvonen emphasize that the study’s findings have important implications for changing how people react when they see online bullying. Rather than placing the burden on victims to monitor their online behavior, the authors say that more online empathy is needed. This is a challenge, they note, because bystanders do not see the anguish of victims of online bullying.

    Supportive messages can make a big difference in how the victim feels,” Schacter said. Other research, she noted, shows that sharing of troubles can help strengthen friendships among students and young adults.

    Shayna Greenberg, a recent UCLA graduate who worked with Schacter and Juvonen on the study, is a co-author.

    The research was partly funded by a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship and a Sigma Xi Grant in Aid of Research for Schacter.

    Previous studies on bullying by Juvonen and her colleagues have found that:

    • Bullies are considered the “cool” kids in school.
    • Nearly three in four teenagers say they were bullied online at least once during a 12-month period.
    • Nearly half of the sixth graders at two Los Angeles-area schools said they were bullied by classmates during a five-day period.

  8. Family dinners good for teen mental health, could protect from cyberbullying

    September 29, 2015 by Ashley

    From the The JAMA Network Journals media release:

    comfort foodCyberbullying was associated with mental health and substance use problems in adolescents but family dinners may help protect teens from the consequences of cyberbullying and also be beneficial for their mental health.

    About 1 in 5 adolescents has experienced recent online bullying and cyberbullying, like traditional bullying, can increase the risk of mental health problems in teens as well as the misuse of drugs and alcohol. It is important to understand whether cyberbullying contributes uniquely to mental health and substance use problems independent of its overlap with traditional face-to-face bullying. Family dinners are an outlet of support for adolescents.

    The authors examined the association between cyberbullying and mental health and substance use problems, as well any moderation of the effects by family contact and communication through family dinners. The study included survey data on 18,834 students (ages 12-18) from 49 schools in a Midwestern state. The authors measured five internalizing problems (anxiety, depression, self-harm, suicide ideation and suicide attempt), two externalizing problems (fighting and vandalism) and four substance use problems (frequent alcohol use, frequent binge drinking, prescription drug misuse and over-the-counter drug misuse).

    Nearly 19 percent of the students reported they had experienced cyberbullying during the previous 12 months. Cyberbullying was associated with all 11 of the internalizing, externalizing and substance use problems. Family dinners appeared to moderate the relationship between cyberbullying and the mental health and substance use problems. For example, with four or more family dinners per week there was about a 4-fold difference in the rates of total problems between no cyberbullying victimization and frequent victimization. When there were no dinners the difference was more than 7-fold.

    “Furthermore, based on these findings, we did not conclude that cyberbullying alone is sufficient to produce poor health outcomes nor that family dinners alone can inoculate adolescents from such exposures. Such an oversimplified interpretation of these associations disregards other exacerbating and protective factors throughout the social environment. Instead, these findings support calls for integrated approaches to protecting victims of cyberbullying that encompass individual coping skills and family and school social supports,” researchers note.

    Editorial: The Role of Families in Preventing, Buffering the Effects of Bullying

    In a related editorial, Catherine P. Bradshaw, Ph.D., M.Ed., of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, writes: “The article by Elgar and colleagues highlights the importance of cyberbullying in relation to mental health concerns, with particular interest in the role of families. Their focus on cyberbullying is salient because this is an issue that often challenges schools and policy makers given that it can occur in any context and at any time of the day, and it often spills over from one setting to another.”

    “The permeability of cyberbullying across contexts and the omnipresence of technology, coupled with the challenges parents face monitoring online activities and communication, make it a particularly appropriate focus of this study. In fact, parents may play a greater role in preventing and helping to intervene in cyberbullying situations than educators owing in part to their direct influence over youths’ access to electronic devices,” Bradshaw continues.

    The often-secret online life of teens may require parents to step up their monitoring efforts to detect this covert form of bullying,” she notes.

     


  9. Study identifies risk and protective factors for youth involved in bullying

    June 29, 2013 by Ashley

    From the University of Minnesota press release via EurekAlert!:

    school_bullyNew research out of the University of Minnesota identifies significant risk factors for suicidal behavior in youth being bullied, but also identifies protective factors for the same group of children.

    The article, “Suicidal Thinking and Behavior Among Youth Involved in Verbal and Social Bullying: Risk and Protective Factors” is being published in a special supplemental issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health. The supplement identifies bullying as a clear public health issue, calling for more preventative research and action.

    Authors of this article included: Iris Borowsky, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of pediatrics in the University of Minnesota Medical School, Barbara McMorris, Ph.D., associate professor of population health in the University of Minnesota School of Nursing, and Lindsay Taliaferro, Ph.D., M.P.H., a public health expert trained as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Minnesota Medical School and now on faculty at the University of Missouri.

    In their analysis, the researchers utilized data from the Minnesota Student Survey, which looked at incidences of social and verbal bullying. The survey did not ask about physical or electronic bullying. Analysis showed over half of students in grades 6, 9, and 12 reported being involved in bullying, either as the victim or the bully. Involvement in bullying was also strongly linked to suicidal ideation or attempts.

    Given that many students are involved in bullying, and bullying involvement is strongly associated with thinking about or attempting suicide, we wanted to find ways to identify who was most at risk for these negative outcomes, and how we can foster protection for them,” said Borowsky.

    The analysis showed clear risk factors for suicidal thinking and behavior among young people involved in bullying. Among them: self injury, such as cutting, emotional distress, running away, and previous trauma in childhood, such as physical or sexual abuse.

    However, there were also experiences that created a protective environment for these young people. Researchers identified strong, positive parental connections as the most powerful protective factor against suicidal ideation and attempt.

    “Perceived caring from parents, friends, and other adults in your community, including relatives and religious leaders, were all significant protective factors for these young people at high risk for suicidality,” said Borowsky. And for victims of bullying, liking school was also protective.

    These protective factors hold promise for preventing suicidal behavior and decreasing bullying. Borowsky and her co-authors suggest family strengthening interventions and linking youth with psychosocial problems to mental health resources.

    It will also be important to identify victims and bullies so parents, teachers, and counselors can screen for risk and protective factors in these youth who are already at increased risk for suicidality. The goal would be reaching the most at-risk youth as soon as possible, to provide effective resources and support.

    Borowsky and other researchers provided input to expand questions on bullying on the Minnesota Student Survey to include items about physical and electronic bullying. This will help researchers, administrators, legislators and other community members understand the full scope of the bullying issue.

    More research is certainly warranted. Borowsky shares the view of federal agencies that call bullying a public health concern in this journal supplement.

    Bullying is not a normative behavior for children and adolescents. It is associated with serious psychosocial problems, including suicidal behavior, and thus requires prevention, recognition, and intervention,” said Borowsky.


  10. Study suggests bullying is a public health problem

    June 27, 2013 by Ashley

    From the Elsevier press release via EurekAlert!:

    BullyRecent studies linking bullying and depression, coupled with extensive media coverage of bullying-related suicide among young people, led the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to assemble an expert panel to focus on these issues.

    This panel synthesized the latest research about the complex relationship between youth involvement in bullying and suicide-related behaviors. Three themes emerged: 1) Bullying among youth is a significant public health problem, with widespread and often harmful results; 2) There is a strong association between bullying and suicide-related behaviors; and 3) Public health strategies can be applied to prevent bullying and suicide.

    A special supplement of the Journal of Adolescent Health presents the panel’s findings, introduced by an insightful editorial by Marci Feldman Hertz, MS, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia, and Ingrid Donato and James Wright, MS, LCPC, Center for Mental Health Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Rockville, Maryland.

    Between 20 and 56 percent of young people are involved in bullying annually, as either a victim or perpetrator, or both. While bullying situations vary by type, age, and duration, middle school-aged children are more likely to be involved in bullying than those in high school. Verbal bullying occurs more frequently than physical or cyber-bullying and is more likely to happen over a longer time period. Further, lesbian and gay youth are more likely to be victimized than heterosexuals.

    Poor mental and physical health among the victims and perpetrators of bullying, and those who experience both victimization and perpetration, investigators say, contribute to the problem. Further, involvement in bullying can have long-lasting, harmful effects, such as depression, anxiety, abdominal pain, and tension, months or even years later, as reported by two studies in this special supplement.

    Researchers demonstrate a strong link between involvement in bullying and suicide. Dorothy Espelage and Melissa K. Holt, authors of “Suicidal Ideation and School Bullying Experiences After Controlling for Depression and Delinquency,” show that the idea of suicide and attempts at suicide among middle school students were three-to-five times greater than among uninvolved students.

    By applying public health strategies, researchers assert that bullying can be prevented, improving health and mental outcomes for many youth. Articles such as “Suicidal Thinking and Behavior Among Youth Involved in Verbal and Social Bullying: Risk and Protective Factors,” by Iris Wagman Borowsky, Lindsay A. Taliaferro, and Barbara J. McMorris, reinforce the call for an integrated approach of multiple strategies to prevent suicide by focusing on shared risk and protective factors, including individual coping skills, family and school social support, and supportive school environments.

    Notes the supplement’s guest editor, Marci Feldman Hertz, “Given the prevalence and impact of bullying, it is important to move forward while public health strategies are still being developed. We can begin by implementing and evaluating strategies that have demonstrated effectiveness at increasing protective factors and decreasing risk factors associated with both bullying and suicide.” Education and health stakeholders, she adds, should consider broadening their focus beyond just providing services to those already involved in bullying or suicide-related behaviors. They should also implement strategies to prevent bullying and suicide behavior from occurring in the first place.