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Victims of Bullying More Likely to Have Unexplainable Physical Symptoms

Update Date: Sep 16, 2013 04:31 PM EDT
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Even though young children might be getting bullied emotionally or physically during school, they often do not report the instances to their parents. When parents do not look for the signs of bullying or do not believe that their children can be victims, the bullying gets left unchecked and the quality of life for these young children can be reduced significantly. In a new study, researchers found that children who were bullied are more likely to have physical symptoms that appear to have no causes.

For this study, the research team examined the combined data from 30 studies that represented nearly 220,000 children from 14 countries. The researchers discovered that children who were bullied were more than twice as likely to state that they were not feeling well in comparison to children who were not bullied. These physical symptoms, such as headaches, stomachaches, back pain, neck or shoulder pain, dizziness, and more, however, were hard to explain because there are no clear signs of the causes.

"The results of this study suggest that any recurrent and unexplained physical symptom can be a warning sign of bullying," the study author, Gianluca Gini said reported by Medical Xpress. Gini is an assistant professor of developmental psychology at the University of Padua in Italy. "Children do not easily talk about their bullying experiences."

Researchers said that in order for parents to be able to discern the difference between a real headache caused by underlying medical factors and a headache sprung about due to bullying, they must start to ask their children the right type of questions. Since children do not like to talk about the bullies at school, parents have to focus on when these symptoms start and ask their children how they feel. For example, if the symptoms arise in the morning right before school, it could be a sign that the child does not want to go to school where there is a bully hurting him or her.

"I think the first thing is really finding time to really observe, watch, and talk with kids so you know when something is off," commented Marlene Snyder, a faculty member in the Institute on Family and Neighborhood Life at Clemson University in South Carolina. "Ask them questions: 'How was your day? Who did you sit with at lunch?'"

The researchers acknowledged that this type of communication could be difficult for older children who reach their teenage years. However, the team presses parents to remember to ask their children and look for signs of bullying. The study was published in Pediatrics.

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