Researchers identify risk and protective factors for youth involved in bullying

June 19, 2013

New research out of the University of Minnesota identifies significant risk factors for suicidal behavior in youth being bullied, but also identifies protective factors for the same group of children.

The article, "Suicidal Thinking and Behavior Among Youth Involved in Verbal and Social Bullying: Risk and Protective Factors" is being published in a special supplemental issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health. The supplement identifies bullying as a clear public health issue, calling for more preventative research and action.

Authors of this article included: Iris Borowsky, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of pediatrics in the University of Minnesota Medical School, Barbara McMorris, Ph.D., associate professor of in the University of Minnesota School of Nursing, and Lindsay Taliaferro, Ph.D., M.P.H., a public health expert trained as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Minnesota Medical School and now on faculty at the University of Missouri.

In their analysis, the researchers utilized data from the Minnesota Student Survey, which looked at incidences of social and verbal bullying. The survey did not ask about physical or electronic bullying. Analysis showed over half of students in grades 6, 9, and 12 reported being involved in bullying, either as the victim or the bully. Involvement in bullying was also strongly linked to or attempts.

"Given that many students are involved in bullying, and bullying involvement is strongly associated with thinking about or attempting suicide, we wanted to find ways to identify who was most at risk for these negative outcomes, and how we can foster protection for them," said Borowsky.

The analysis showed clear risk factors for suicidal thinking and behavior among young people involved in bullying. Among them: self injury, such as cutting, , running away, and previous trauma in childhood, such as physical or sexual abuse.

However, there were also experiences that created a protective environment for these young people. Researchers identified strong, positive parental connections as the most powerful protective factor against suicidal ideation and attempt.

"Perceived caring from parents, friends, and other adults in your community, including relatives and religious leaders, were all significant protective factors for these young people at high risk for suicidality," said Borowsky. And for victims of bullying, liking school was also protective.

These protective factors hold promise for preventing suicidal behavior and decreasing bullying. Borowsky and her co-authors suggest family strengthening interventions and linking youth with psychosocial problems to mental health resources.

It will also be important to identify victims and bullies so parents, teachers, and counselors can screen for risk and protective factors in these youth who are already at increased risk for suicidality. The goal would be reaching the most at-risk youth as soon as possible, to provide effective resources and support.

Borowsky and other researchers provided input to expand questions on bullying on the Minnesota Student Survey to include items about physical and electronic bullying. This will help researchers, administrators, legislators and other community members understand the full scope of the bullying issue.

More research is certainly warranted. Borowsky shares the view of federal agencies that call bullying a public health concern in this journal supplement.

" is not a normative behavior for children and adolescents. It is associated with serious psychosocial problems, including , and thus requires prevention, recognition, and intervention," said Borowsky.

Explore further: Bullying and suicide among youth is a public health problem

Related Stories

Bullying and suicide among youth is a public health problem

June 19, 2013
Recent studies linking bullying and depression, coupled with extensive media coverage of bullying-related suicide among young people, led the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to assemble an expert panel to ...

Mentoring, leadership program key to ending bullying in at-risk teen girls

April 30, 2013
New research from experts within the University of Minnesota School of Nursing has found teen girls at high risk for pregnancy reported being significantly less likely to participate in social bullying after participating ...

Study links adolescent bullies to criminal behavior later

May 9, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—Adults who say they bullied others when they were adolescents may have a higher likelihood of engaging in criminal behavior later in life, according to new research from UT Dallas.

Poor parenting—including overprotection—increases bullying risk

April 25, 2013
Children who are exposed to negative parenting – including abuse, neglect but also overprotection – are more likely to experience childhood bullying by their peers, according to a meta-analysis of 70 studies of more than ...

Research finds bullies and victims three times more likely to have suicidal thoughts by age 11

February 29, 2012
as both a victim and a bully – are three times more likely to have suicidal thoughts by the time they reach 11 years old, according to research from the University of Warwick.

Youth bullying because of perceived sexual orientation widespread and damaging

May 20, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—Bullying because of perceived sexual orientation is prevalent among school-aged youths, according to a study led by Donald Patrick, professor of health services at the UW School of Public Health. The study ...

Recommended for you

New study rebuts the claim that antidepressants do not work

August 18, 2017
A theory that has gained considerable attention in international media, including Newsweek and the CBS broadcast 60 minutes, suggests that antidepressant drugs such as the SSRIs do not exert any actual antidepressant effect. ...

Should I stay or should I leave? Untangling what goes on when a relationship is being questioned

August 17, 2017
Knowing whether to stay in or leave a romantic relationship is often an agonizing experience and that ambivalence can have negative consequences for health and well-being.

Kids learn moral lessons more effectively from stories with humans than human-like animals

August 17, 2017
A study by researchers at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) at the University of Toronto found that four to six-year-olds shared more after listening to books with human characters than books with anthropomorphic ...

History of stress increases miscarriage risk, says new review

August 17, 2017
A history of exposure to psychological stress can increase the risk of miscarriage by upto 42 per cent, according to a new review.

Study finds children pay close attention to potentially threatening information, avoid eye contact when anxious

August 17, 2017
We spend a lot of time looking at the eyes of others for social cues – it helps us understand a person's emotions, and make decisions about how to respond to them. We also know that adults avoid eye contact when anxious. ...

Communicating in a foreign language takes emotion out of decision making

August 16, 2017
If you could save the lives of five people by pushing another bystander in front of a train to his death, would you do it? And should it make any difference if that choice is presented in a language you speak, but isn't your ...

0 comments

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.