Duke University study: Bullying has life-long effects

20 Aug

1. Violence in America

According to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) “For both males and females, juvenile arrest rates for simple assault grew substantially through the 1980s and 1990s.” Violent acts committed by girls are increasing according to the OJJP.

• As with aggravated assault, the increase in the female juvenile arrest rate for simple assault over the 28-year period far outpaced the increase in the male rate (284% vs. 101%).
• The disproportionate increase in the female rate narrowed the gender disparity in the simple assault arrest rate. In 1980, the juvenile male arrest rate for simple assault was more than three times the female rate; in 2007, the male rate was about twice the female rate.
• Juvenile male and female simple assault arrest rates both declined by about 3% between 2006 and 2007.

The Disaster Center has crime rates 1960 -2008 http://www.disastercenter.com/crime/uscrime.htm

The Center for Sport Policy and Conduct (Sport Center) at Indiana University, Bloomington has excellent capsule definitions of violence, aggression, and deviance According to the Sport Center violence is defined as:

Violence can be seen as a form of physical assault based on an intent to injure another person or destroy the property of others. To continue this definition, “violence in sport violates the norms and rules of the contest, threatens lives and property, and usually cannot be anticipated by the persons affected” (Smith, 1983, p. 6).

Aggression is defined as:

Aggression can be generally defined as all behavior intended to destroy another person’s property or to injure another person, physically or psychologically. It has been reported that action has to violate norms and rules shared by society in order to be defined as aggressive. Several experiments (Tedeschi, Gaes, & Rivera, 1977) found that a protagonist who intends to cause injury is only judged by witnesses to be aggressive when his behavior is also judged to be antinormative; in other words, when they are opposing the social rules that apply to that particular situation. Judgment is the same when the action or “intent to injure” constitutes a response to a previous provocation. If, however, the action exceeds the preceding deed, the revenge is viewed as excessive and judged as inappropriate and aggressive.

Deviance is defined as “Deviant behavior is usually that which departs from the norm; anything that goes against the accepted societal standards could be classified as such.” The subject of this article is aggressive behavior in children. http://www.indiana.edu/~cspc/violence.htm

Leo J. Bastiaens, MD and Ida K. Bastiaens wrote an excellent article about youth aggression in the Psychiatric Times. One part of the article looked at the economic impact.

Before taking into account the costs of juvenile justice programs and institutions, youth violence alone costs the United States more than $158 billion each year….
US cities lose nearly $50 billion a year because of crime and violence….Reallocation of resources, new social spending initiatives, programs with a higher quality of care, and a better public health perspective would change the lives of our youths and cut the social cost of juvenile crime in the United States.

2. What is Aggressive Behavior?

Dr. Dianne S. O’Connor lists the following causes of aggressive behavior in children

Genetic and/or temperamental influences.
• Insecure or disorganized attachment patterns.
• Ongoing and unrelieved stress.
• Lack of appropriate problem solving and coping strategies.
• Limited experience with role models (e.g. peers, family members, TV. & computer games) who value and provide examples of non-aggressive behaviors.
• Ineffective parenting style: for example, authoritarian, controlling, harsh or coercive parenting style; permissive, overindulgent parenting style; rejecting parenting style; psychological problems in the parent such as depression or alcoholism.
• Poor fit between parent and child: Ineffective parenting could be an effect rather than a cause of the child’s behavior. Children’s problem behaviors may affect parents’ moods and parenting behaviors.
• Family stress, disruption and conflict. http://www.solutionsforchildproblems.com/aggressive-behavior-children.html

There are certain family and social risk factors which should alert educators and social workers that an early intervention may be needed.
Physorg.Com reports about an University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill study which cites early neglect as a predictor of aggressive behavior in children.
Early child neglect may be as important as child abuse for predicting aggressive behavior, researchers say. Neglect accounts for nearly two-thirds of all child maltreatment cases reported in the United States each year, according to the Administration for Children and Families. http://phys.org/news126764603.html

According to Joan Arehart-Treichel’s article in Psychiatric News, aggression comes in four types. She writes about a study project conducted by He was Henri Parens, M.D., a professor of psychiatry at Jefferson Medical College and a training and supervising analyst at the Psychoanalytic Center of Philadelphia.

“Parens and his colleagues not only met with 10 socioeconomically disadvantaged mothers and their 16 infants twice a week over seven years, but have been following up with the mothers and their offspring ever since.” According to Arehart –Treichel, the four types of aggression are
One was a nondestructive aggression, the kind the 5-month-oldgirl had demonstrated. It is children’s attempt to master themselvesand their environment. “This is a magnificent kind of aggression,”Parens said. It represents the kind that drives youngsters toexcel academically, win at sports, climb mountains, and do fantasticthings with their lives. It is inborn and essential for survivaland adaptation. It is the kind of aggression that parents shouldcultivate.
A second kind of aggression is the urge to obtain food. It toois inborn and essential for survival and adaptation.
A third kind of aggression is displeasure-related aggression(say, a temper tantrum or a rage reaction), and a fourth kindof aggression is pleasure-related aggression (for example, teasingand taunting). Neither is inborn; both are hostile aggression,and both are activated by emotional pain. In other words, hurtinga person’s feelings can generate hostile aggression. That istrue for all people. In contrast, people whose feelings arenot hurt will probably not engage in hostile aggression.
According to Parens’ observations a good deal of the aggression behavior observed in the children in the study was related to how their parents treated them.

3. Aggressive Behavior in Boys

PBS has a good description of aggression in boys and what characteristics are normal and not necessarily cause for concern.

Why do boys become aggressive? Sometimes boys are aggressive because they are frustrated or because they want to win. Sometimes they are just angry and can’t find another way to express that feeling. And some may behave aggressively, but they’re not aggressive all the time.

An active boy is not necessarily an aggressive one. “We often see young boys playing out aggressive themes. It’s only a problem when it gets out of control,” comments Thompson.

Competition, power and success are the true stuff of boys’ play. Many young boys see things in competitive terms and play games like “I can make my marble roll faster than yours,” “my tower is taller than yours” and “I can run faster than you.” But these games of power and dominance are not necessarily aggressive unless they are intended to hurt.

Fantasy play is not aggressive. A common boy fantasy about killing bad guys and saving the world is just as normal as a common girl fantasy about tucking in animals and putting them to bed. “Most boys will pick up a pretzel and pretend to shoot with it,” comments teacher Jane Katch. “If a boy is playing a game about super heroes, you might see it as violent. But the way he sees it, he’s making the world safe from the bad guys. This is normal and doesn’t indicate that anything is wrong unless he repeatedly hurts or tries to dominate the friends he plays with. And sometimes an act that feels aggressive to one child was actually intended to be a playful action by the child who did it. When this happens in my class, we talk about it, so one child can understand that another child’s experience may be different than his own. This is the way empathy develops.”

Only a small percentage of boys’ behavior is truly aggressive. While “all boys have normal aggressive impulses which they learn to control, only a small percentage are overly aggressive and have chronic difficulty controlling those impulses,” says Michael Thompson, Ph.D. These are the boys who truly confuse fantasy with reality, and frequently hit, punch, and bully other kids. They have a lack of impulse control and cannot stop themselves from acting out. “They cannot contain their anger and have little control over their physical behavior and this is when intervention by parent or teacher is needed,” says Thompson. http://www.pbs.org/parents/raisingboys/aggression02.html

The key point is a lot of behavior, which is normal activity for most boys is not unacceptable aggression and should not trigger the use of medication for behavior which is within the normal range.

4. Aggressive Behavior in Girls

Dr. Nicki Crick, of the University of Minnesota has studied aggression in girls. Her work in the field of relationalship aggression is summarized:

Most studies about aggressive behavior in children have focused on boys and on physical expressions of aggression. “It gave the appearance that girls really were sugar and spice and everything nice,” says Nicki Crick, professor of child development. “But I didn’t believe that was really the case.”

For more than six years, Crick has been conducting longitudinal studies of relational aggression, witnessed mainly in girls. Rather than physically harming others, relationally aggressive children will threaten such retaliations as: “Do this or I won’t be your friend.” Or: “If you don’t help me, I’ll tell Amy you said she was ugly….”
What the research shows

Some of Crick’s early research findings show relational aggression is related to factors such as particular types of family relationships and relationships with friends and other peers. She is especially interested in children whose aggression is gender-atypical—that is, girls who are physically aggressive and boys who are relationally aggressive.

“These kids seem to be the most at-risk for more serious social problems later in life,” she says. “The most apparent reason is that not only does their aggressive behavior make them less popular, but the fact that they’re perceived by their peers as acting inappropriately for their gender further isolates them.” http://www.cehd.umn.edu/research/highlights/

See, Gender Differences in Aggressive Behavior As with boys, Purposeful harm to another person is never acceptable.

Geoffrey Mohan wrote in the Los Angeles Times article, Children bullied in school may have more problems as adults:

Bullying doesn’t end in the school yard, but casts a shadow across adulthood, when victims are far more likely to have emotional, behavioral, financial and health problems, a new study suggests.
Those who were both victim and perpetrator as schoolchildren fared the worst as adults: they were more than six times more likely to be diagnosed with a serious illness or psychiatric disorder, and to smoke regularly, according to the study published Monday in the journal Psychological Science.
The poor results for victims and victim-perpetrators prevailed even when such factors as family hardship and childhood psychiatric disorders were statistically controlled.
Victim-perpetrators are “the most socially defeated because they actually do try to fight back but they’re unsuccessful,” said Dieter Wolke, a University of Warwick psychologist and lead author of the study.
Bullies tended to enter adulthood with similar problems as their victims, but few of those adult outcomes were strongly correlated with bullying itself, the study found. Those correlations tended to wash out once other factors were taken into account, said Wolke. Bullies tended to engage in more risky behavior and to have criminal records.
The result for bullies is supported by previous work, which suggests they are strong and healthy, competent in emotional recognition and adept at manipulating others. Victims aside, bullies tend to have more acquaintances and social status, previous studies have shown…. http://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-bullying-adults-20130818,0,1131499.story

Here is the press release from Duke:

Bullied children can suffer lasting psychological harm as adults
About This Article
Article Details
Published: Feb. 20, 2013
Updated: Feb. 20, 2013
For Journalists
Reporters & producers can visit Duke Medicine News and Communications for contact information.
Contact Duke Medicine News and Communications
By Duke Medicine News and Communications
DURHAM, NC – Bullied children grow into adults who are at increased risk of developing anxiety disorders, depression and suicidal thoughts, according to a study led by researchers at Duke Medicine.

The findings, based on more than 20 years of data from a large group of participants initially enrolled as adolescents, are the most definitive to date in establishing the long-term psychological effects of bullying.

Published online Feb. 20, 2013, in JAMA Psychiatry, the study belies a common perception that bullying, while hurtful, inflicts a fleeting injury that victims outgrow.

“We were surprised at how profoundly bullying affects a person’s long-term functioning,” said William E. Copeland, PhD, assistant clinical professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Duke University and lead author of the study. “This psychological damage doesn’t just go away because a person grew up and is no longer bullied. This is something that stays with them. If we can address this now, we can prevent a whole host of problems down the road.”

A previous longitudinal study of bullied children, conducted in Finland, found mixed results, concluding that boys had few lasting problems, while girls suffered more long-term psychological harm. That study, however, relied on registry data in the health system that didn’t fully capture psychiatric records.

Copeland and colleagues had a much richer data set. Using the Great Smoky Mountain Study, the research team tapped a population-based sample of 1,420 children ages 9, 11 and 13 from 11 counties in western North Carolina. Initially enrolled in 1993, the children and their parents or caregivers were interviewed annually until the youngsters turned 16, and then periodically thereafter.

At each assessment until age 16, the child and caregiver were asked, among other things, whether the child had been bullied or teased or had bullied others in the three months immediately prior to the interview.

A total of 421 child or adolescent participants – 26 percent of the children – reported being bullied at least once; 887 said they suffered no such abuse. Boys and girls reported incidents at about the same rate. Nearly 200 youngsters, or 9.5 percent, acknowledged bullying others; 112 were bullies only, while 86 were both bullies and victims.

Of the original 1,420 children, more than 1,270 were followed up into adulthood. The subsequent interviews included questions about the participants’ psychological health.

As adults, those who said they had been bullied, plus those who were both victims and aggressors, were at higher risk for psychiatric disorders compared with those with no history of being bullied. The young people who were only victims had higher levels of depressive disorders, anxiety disorders, generalized anxiety, panic disorder and agoraphobia.

Those who were both bullies and victims had higher levels of all anxiety and depressive disorders, plus the highest levels of suicidal thoughts, depressive disorders, generalized anxiety and panic disorder. Bullies were also at increased risk for antisocial personality disorder.

The researchers were able to sort out confounding factors that might have contributed to psychiatric disorders, including poverty, abuse and an unstable or dysfunctional home life.

“Bullying is potentially a problem for bullies as well as for victims,” said senior author E. Jane Costello, PhD, associate director of research at Duke’s Center for Child and Family Policy. “Bullying, which we tend to think of as a normal and not terribly important part of childhood, turns out to have the potential for very serious consequences for children, adolescents and adults.”

Costello and Copeland said they would continue their analysis, with future studies exploring the role sexual orientation plays in bullying and victimization.

In addition to Costello and Copeland, study authors include Adrian Angold of Duke and Dieter Wolke of the University of Warwick, Coventry, England.

The work received support from the National Institute of Mental Health (MH63970, MH63671, and MH48085); the National Institute on Drug Abuse (DA/MH11301); the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation; and the William T. Grant Foundation.

As with many problems, the key is early diagnosis and intervention with appropriate treatment. Purposeful harm to another person is never acceptable.


Dr. Wilda Reviews: children’s book: ‘Bully Bean’ https://drwilda.com/2013/08/18/dr-wilda-reviews-childrens-book-bully-bean/

Kids need to tell teachers and schools when they are bullied https://drwilda.com/2013/04/08/kids-need-to-tell-teachers-and-schools-when-they-are-bullied/

Massachusetts Aggression Center study: Cyberbullying and elementary school children https://drwilda.com/2013/07/30/massachusetts-aggression-center-study-cuberbullying-and-elementary-school-children/

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