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Bullying behavior and associations with psychosomatic complaints and depression in victims

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Author: Fekkes, M. · Pijpers, F.I.M. · Verloove-Vanhorick, S.P.
Institution: TNO Preventie en Gezondheid
Source:Journal of Pediatrics, 1, 144, 17-22
Identifier: 237582
doi: doi:10.1016/j.jpeds.2003.09.025
Keywords: Health · Abdominal pain · Calculation · Child abuse · Controlled study · Disease association · Fatigue · Headache · Health care personnel · Major clinical study · Nocturnal enuresis · Primary school · Psychosomatic disorder · Questionnaire · Sleep disorder · Symptomatology · Victim · Aggression · Child · Cross-Sectional Studies · Depression · Female · Humans · Interpersonal Relations · Male · Odds Ratio · Psychophysiologic Disorders · Violence


Objectives: To assess the association between bullying behavior and a wide variety of psychosomatic health complaints and depression. Study design: In a cross-sectional study, 2766 elementary school children age 9 to 12 years filled out a questionnaire on bullying behavior and health complaints. Three groups - bullied children, active bullies, and children who both bully and are bullied - were compared with the group of children not involved in bullying behavior. Subsequently, risks for psychosomatic symptoms and depression were calculated by means of odds ratios. Results: Bully victims had significantly higher chances for depression and psychosomatic symptoms compared with children not involved in bullying behavior. Odds ratios were as follows: headache, 3.0; sleeping problems, 2.4; abdominal pain, 3.2; bedwetting, 2.9; feeling tired, 3.4; and depression, 7.7. Children who actively bullied did not have a higher chance for most of the investigated health symptoms. Conclusions: Being bullied is strongly associated with a wide range of psychosomatic symptoms and depression. These associations are similar to the complaints known to be associated with child abuse. Therefore, when such health complaints are presented, pediatricians and other health care workers should also be aware of the possibility that a child is being bullied to take preventive measures.