Study examines how and why some children become chronically abused by peers

Oct 06, 2008

As soon as children are old enough to interact socially, some become entrenched in chronic and increasing patterns of victimization by their peers, according to a report in the October issue of Archives of General Psychiatry, one of the JAMA/Archives journals. Children who are aggressive in infancy and are from families with harsh parenting styles and insufficient income appear more likely to be consistently victimized.

As many as one in 10 youth are the direct target of physical attacks, hostile words and social aggression from peers during school years, according to background information in the article. "Studies also show that peer victimization becomes increasingly stable over time, with the same children enduring such negative experiences throughout childhood and adolescence," the authors write. "The consequences associated with high and chronic victimization are manifold and include depression, loneliness, low self-esteem, physical health problems, social withdrawal, alcohol and/or drug use, school absence and avoidance, decrease in school performance, self-harm and suicidal ideation [thoughts and behaviors]."

Edward D. Barker, Ph.D., of the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, and colleagues studied 1,970 children (51 percent boys) born in Québec, Montreal, Canada, between October 1997 and July 1998. Participating children were assessed at ages 4.5 months, 16.6 months, and 2.4, 3.4, 4.1, 5.1, 6.2 and 7.2 years. At each point, mothers provided information on factors such as victimization, family adversity, parenting styles, physical aggression, hyperactivity and internalizing symptoms. At age 7.2 years, teachers and children reported on victimization by classmates.

"Three trajectory groups were identified with respect to victimization by peers between 3.4 and 6.2 years of age," the authors write. "As expected, most of the children (71 percent) fell on a low/increasing trajectory, whereas 25 percent and 4 percent of the children followed moderate/increasing and high/chronic trajectories, respectively. The overall age-related increase in preschool peer victimization is consistent with the view that, as preschool children progressively spend more time interacting with peers, they are more likely to experience negative peer experiences."

Children who were on the high/chronic and moderate/increasing trajectory according to their mothers' reports at young ages also had the highest levels of victimization at age 7.2, as reported by themselves and their teachers. Children who were aggressive at a young age (17 months) were more likely to become victims in preschool than children who were less aggressive, but neither early internalizing symptoms (for example, sadness, fear and anxiety) or hyperactivity were associated with later victimization. Children exposed to harsh parenting were more likely to be chronic victims, and insufficient family income also predicted high/chronic and moderate/increasing victimization trajectories.

In addition to identifying factors associated with victimization, "the present results also suggest that multiple forms of victimization may be the norm for victimized children, i.e., children with a high/chronic trajectory had harsh, reactive parents and were victimized by peers in preschool and after school entry. Other forms of victimization are likely to occur for these children, both within the school (e.g., verbal bullying by teachers) and within the community, particularly within low socioeconomic contexts," the authors write. "These results suggest that early preventive interventions should target both child- and parent-level risks and focus on alternatives to harsh and aggressive interactions."


Source: JAMA and Archives Journals

Explore further: Invasive procedures down with noninvasive prenatal testing

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Underfire Uber ramps up rider safety

3 hours ago

Uber is ramping up driver background checks and other security measures worldwide after the smartphone-focused car-sharing service was banned in New Delhi following the alleged rape of a passenger.

US probe links NKorea to Sony hacking

4 hours ago

A U.S. official says federal investigators have now connected the Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc. hacking to North Korea and are expected to make an announcement in the near future.

New York state bans fracking

4 hours ago

Governor Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday he would ban hydraulic fracking in New York State, citing health concerns about the controversial oil and gas drilling technique.

Sony cancels NKorea parody film release after threats

4 hours ago

Hollywood studio Sony Pictures on Wednesday abruptly canceled the December 25 release date of "The Interview," a parody film which has angered North Korea and triggered chilling threats from hackers.

Recommended for you

Supplement maker admits lying about ingredients

Dec 17, 2014

Federal prosecutors say the owner and president of a dietary supplement company has admitted his role in the sale of diluted and adulterated dietary ingredients and supplements sold by his company.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.