Pediatricians can help stem the tide of bullying

October 11, 2005

As many as 160,000 students stay home from school on any given day because they're afraid of being bullied.

As many as 160,000 students stay home from school on any given day because they're afraid of being bullied.

Bullying has always been a fact of life for school-age children, but recent studies reveal the dimension of the problem: Between 15% and 25% of students in the United States are bullied with some frequency, and 15% to 20% of students report that they bully others with some frequency.

Pediatricians attending a presentation on bullying at the American Academy of Pediatrics' (AAP) National Conference and Exhibition on Tuesday heard that, despite public information campaigns by the government and organized medicine, there is a shortage of information on bullying, being bullied, retaliation, and the risk of involvement in more serious violence. The session examined the prevalence of bullying in the U.S. and explored intervention strategies, including the AAP's new primary care violence prevention protocol "Connected Kids: Safe, Strong, Secure." (See related item.)

According to session presenter Joseph L. Wright, MD, of Children's National Medical Center, Washington, D.C., the issue of greatest concern is the association of bullying behavior, particularly among young school-age children, with the subsequent development of serious assault behaviors. Said Dr. Wright, "It can mess up a kid's future. Young people who bully are more likely than those who don't bully to skip school and drop out of school. They're also more likely to smoke, drink alcohol, and get into fights."