Bullies more likely to have mental illnesses

In a new study presented Oct. 22, 2012, at the national conference of the American Association of Pediatrics, public health graduate student Dr. Frances Turcotte-Benedict reports that children with diagnosed mental illness are three times more likely to bully than children without disorders.

Childhood bullying can seriously affect the mental health of its victims, but it is also associated with significant mental health problems for the bully, according to a new study led by public health master’s student Dr. Frances Turcotte-Benedict. She presented the results of her study Monday, Oct. 22, 2012, in New Orleans at the national conference of the American Association of Pediatrics.

For a biostatistics class project, Turcotte-Benedict and her co-authors reviewed data on nearly 64,000 children from the 2007 National Survey of Children’s Health. Parents in the survey identified 15.2 percent of children as bullies. Kids with mental illness turned out to be three times more likely to be among that group. Kids with Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) were six times more likely to be identified as bullies, and those with depression were three times as likely.

“In order to create successful anti-bullying prevention and intervention programs, there certainly is a need for more research to understand the relationship more thoroughly and especially the risk profile of childhood bullies,” said Turcotte-Benedict, who is also a fellow in pediatric emergency medicine at Hasbro Children’s Hospital.

In addition to Turcotte-Benedict, the other authors are Patrick Vivier, associate professor of public health and pediatrics, and Annie Gjelsvik, assistant professor (research) of epidemiology.

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Brown University