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Do Bullied Children Get Ill, or Do Ill Children Get Bullied? A Prospective Cohort Study on the Relationship Between Bullying and Health-Related Symptoms

This study investigates whether victimization precedes psychosomatic and psychosocial symptoms or whether these symptoms precede victimization.

 Research designed as six-month cohort study with baseline measurements taken in the fall of 1999 and follow-up measurements in the spring of 2000. 18 elementary schools in the Netherlands has been included and 1118 children, aged 9 to 11 years, participated by filling out a questionnaire on both occasions of data collection.

 A self-administered questionnaire measured victimization from bullying, as well as a wide variety of psychosocial and psychosomatic symptoms, including depression, anxiety, bedwetting, headaches, sleeping problems, abdominal pain, poor appetite, and feelings of tension or tiredness.

 As a result of this measurement victims of bullying had significantly higher chances of developing new psychosomatic and psychosocial problems compared with children who were not bullied. In contrast, some psychosocial, but not physical, health symptoms preceded bullying victimization. Children with depressive symptoms had a significantly higher chance of being newly victimized, as did children with anxiety.

 Based on the investigated data, it can be interpreted as; any psychosomatic and psychosocial health problems follow an episode of bullying victimization. These findings stress the importance for doctors and health practitioners to establish whether bullying plays a contributing role in the etiology of such symptoms. Furthermore, our results indicate that children with depressive symptoms and anxiety are at increased risk of being victimized. Because victimization could have an adverse effect on children’s attempts to cope with depression or anxiety, it is important to consider teaching these children skills that could make them less vulnerable to bullying behavior.


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