Study: Bullied teens more likely to carry weapons to school

Washington: High school students subjected to bullying and other forms of harassment are more likely to report being seriously depressed, consider suicide and carry weapons to school, according to new US research. “Teens can be the victim of face-to-face bullying in school, electronic bullying outside of the classroom and dating violence,” said Andrew Adesman, senior investigator of three studies on bullying presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies meeting in San Diego.

“Each of these experiences are associated with a range of serious adverse consequences,” Adesman said. All three studies were based on data collected by the US Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) as part of its 2013 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System – a biannual questionnaire of teens in grades 9-12 in all 50 states that is constructed to provide a representative sample of high school students in the US.

In one study on bullying, Adesman’s team found that depression and suicide are much more common in teens who have been the victim of bullying in school and/or electronically. Moreover, these risks were additive among teens who were the victim of both forms of bullying.

“Although cyber bullying may not pose the same physical threat that face-to-face bullying does, it can be far more hurtful since it can spread like wildfire throughout a student body and take on a life of its own,” Adesman said. Tammy Pham, the principal investigator, said it was very important to create more effective strategies to prevent bullying in all forms.

In a second study of bullying, the investigators found that bullying, physical dating violence and/or sexual dating violence were each associated with teens not attending school or carrying weapons to school. “Tragically, teens who were victimised in more than one way were especially likely to carry a weapon to school or skip school altogether,” said Adesman, chief of developmental and behavioural pediatrics at Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New Hyde Park.

Alexis Tchaconas, the principal investigator of this study, said that bullying and dating violence were more common than many might expect. The third study on bullying focused on teens who were victims of bullying in the past 12 months and investigated whether there are gender differences in the association of carrying a weapon to school.

On the one hand, boys were overall more likely to carry a weapon to school than girls, regardless of victim status. On the other hand, girls who were the victims of bullying were more than three times as likely to carry a weapon as girls who were not victimised; by contrast, male victims were less than twice as likely to carry a weapon compared to male non-victims.

“The prevalence of school bullying has serious implications for the safety of all students – both the victims of bullying and the non-victims,” said Pham, the principal investigator of this study.

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