Bullying appears to be connected to several factors, including family violence, alcohol and drug use and increased suicidal tendencies, according to the results obtained from the 2009 Massachusetts Youth Health Survey, which was released on April 22, 2011.
During a single class period, students at 138 middle schools and high schools were surveyed about their experiences with bullying, either as victims, bullies or both (classified as bully-victims).
The most outstanding finding, according Dr. Robert Sege, chief of ambulatory pediatrics at Boston Medical Center, was how often bullies and bully-victims had been exposed to domestic violence. In the survey, 23% of bully-victims in middle school and 20% of high school bully-victims reported having been physically hurt by a family member during the past year. In addition, 19% of middle school bullies and 14% of high school bullies had been subjected to familial violence, compared to 14% of middle school victims and 13% of high school victims.
The researchers also found that 25% of middle school bully-victims reported having seriously considered suicide within the past year, compared to 16% of bullies and 12% of victims. For high school students, the numbers were 23%, 13% and 20% respectively. Among middle school students, 5% of victims,11% of bullies and 17% of bully-victims actually attempted suicide. On the high school levels, 10% of victims, 6% of bullies and 11% of bully-victims attempted suicide.
In addition, 41% of middle school bully-victims and 29% of high school bully-victims reported self-harming without an intent to commit suicide.
According Dr. Carl Bell, president and CEO of the Community Mental Health Council and Foundation of Chicago, any effective program against bullying must have actively involved adults. "Children [and] teenagers are all gasoline, no brakes, and no steering wheel," he said. "They need adults around to be the brakes and the steering wheel."
While parents and teachers are often the first to become aware of bullying, Dr. Sege noted that pediatricians can also play a role in recognizing bullying. Physical injuries and symptoms of ADHD where none previously existed could be signs of bullying, he said.