Bullied children three times more likely to self-harm
CHILDREN bullied during their early years at school are up to three times more likely to self-harm than classmates when they reach adolescence, a study shows.
The risk for self-harm was much higher among children with behavioural or emotional difficulties and those from troubled families.
According to the study’s findings, about half of 12-year-olds who subjected themselves to deliberate injury had been frequently picked on.
The authors, from King’s College London, looked at more than 1000 pairs of twins – born between 1994 and 1995 in England and Wales – at five, seven, 10 and 12 years of age.
Some 237 children were victims of frequent bullying. Of that number, 18 (about 8%) self-harmed by cutting or biting arms, pulling out clumps of hair, head-banging against walls or attempting suicide.Of 1904 children who were not bullied, 44 (2%) self-harmed.
The study authors called for more effective programs to prevent bullying in schools, suggesting efforts should focus on improving the ways in which children cope with emotional distress.
“Bullying by peers is a major problem during the early school years,” they said.
“This study found that before 12 years of age a small proportion of children frequently exposed to this form of victimisation already deliberately harmed themselves and in some cases attempted to take their own lives.
“Frequent victimisation by peers increased the risk of self-harm.”
The researchers raised fears over the long-term implications of bullying, which they said could result in psychological issues, serious injury or death.
“Studies have suggested that early patterns of self-harm can persist through adolescence into adulthood,” they said.
BMJ 2012; online 26 April