For many years, research on bullying and mental health has focused on how being bullied could lead to depression and other mental problems later in life. But a new study suggests that it can also be the other way around. That is to say – those who have mental health disorders have higher chances of becoming bullies themselves.
What the study says
Researchers from Brown University found that children with Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD), characterised by frequent tantrums, hostility, anger and other revenge-seeking behaviours especially to people with authority like teachers, parents and adults, were six times more likely to become bullies than those who are mentally healthy. Furthermore, kids with anxiety and deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) were three times more likely to engage in bullying.
According to Dr Frances Turcotte-Benedict, there is a larger story behind why children bully, and part of that story may include the presence of a mental health disorder.
The researchers based their findings upon analysing the data provided by parents of 64,000 children ages 6-17 which were obtained as part of the 2007 National Survey of Children’s Health. Among these children, 15% were identified “bullies”.
The study found no link between the gender and likelihood of bullying. Both boys and girls, according to Dr Turcotte-Benedict, who have mental disorder, are likely to be bullies. However, if one has to look on mental health and gender alone, white, non-Hispanic boys are more likely to be diagnosed with mental disorders than girls, she added.
The researchers call for more studies to be done in order to improve prevention efforts.
Findings were not surprising
The findings did not surprise many experts. Dr Steven Meyers, a clinical psychologist and professor of psychology at Roosevelt University said that the findings were not surprising, at least in terms of ODD. It’s because such mental health disorder affecting 1% of school-aged children is characterised by traits associated with bullying, such as aggression. He wasn’t also surprise to see the link between ADHD and the likelihood to become a bully. According to Dr Meyers, even though children with ADHD do not show anger or aggressiveness towards their peers, they have some traits that increase the chance of having impaired social interactions.
What surprised him is the finding that children with anxiety and depression also had greater chances of becoming bullies. One reason for this, according to him, is that kids with these mental health problems tend to perceive some situations in a more negative that they truly are. Dr Meyers was not involved in the study.
Support should be given to bullies as well
Researchers said that support is often provided to bullied peers who are considered victims. However, many bullies should also be viewed as victims and offered help and support to correct their behaviour. On their report, they emphasised the need to create psychological support programs for bullies.
The study did not examine whether bullies have the tendency to develop mental disorders, only the chance of children with mental problems becoming bullies.
Source of this article:
Bullying And Mental Health: Study Links Anxiety, Hyperactivity In Kids To Bullying