Playground bullies healthier than their victims

August 21, 2001

Primary school bullies are healthier and mentally stronger than their victims, finds a study in the Archives of Disease in Childhood.

The research team studied more than 1600 children aged between 6 and 9, from 31 primary schools across Hertfordshire in the UK. Structured interviews with the children were used to assess whether the children were the victims of bullying, bullied themselves, or were both bully and victim. Parents completed questionnaires on the physical health and amount of psychosomatic illness their children had had in the preceding six months. And they were also asked if they felt their child had ever made up illnesses to avoid going to school.

The results showed that bullying was widespread: almost 40 per cent of the children said that they were repeatedly bullied. A further one in ten children said that they were both bully and victim. And just over 4 per cent said that they bullied but were never victims.

Victims and those who were both bully and victim, and girls had significantly more health problems, such as coughs, colds, aches and pains and nausea than either pure bullies or children not involved in bullying. They were also more worried about going to school and were more likely to make up illnesses during term time.

Psychosomatic health problems, such as bedwetting, nightmares, and poor appetite were more common in those who were victimised, those who were both bully and victim and children in year 2.

Pure bullies had the least physical and psychosomatic health problems of any of the children, which, the authors suggest, points to a constitution that allows these children to be "dominant in inappropriate ways. " The authors conclude that it is important to break the cycle of victimisation during the early primary school years, not only to harness the strengths of the bullies more appropriately, but also to prevent persistent health problems and potential truancy later on.

BMJ Specialty Journals

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