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Study: Childhood Bullying Starts With Parents

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(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Bud Gillett
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DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - A new study co-authored by doctors at Children’s Medical Center in Dallas is looking at bullying from a different angle: what goes into making a child a bully.  And they’ve determined parents play a vital role.

“It was something that was personally important to me because I was bullied as a child,” Dr. Rashmi Shetgiri told CBS 11 News.

She is a pediatrics physician at Children’s.  She and colleague Dr. Glenn Flores of Children’s—along with two academic researchers— have just published a report for the American Journal of Public Health, and their data show nearly a third of kids between 10-and-17 are either victims or perpetrators of bullying…or both.

While most of us think that bullying occurs in public forums, like at schools or online, the study argues the root of the problem begins in neighborhoods like this all across America.  In the privacy of  homes; with parents.   “Parents who have more feelings of anger towards their child or feel like their child bothers them a lot or is harder to care for than other kids, those parents have children that are more likely to be bullies,” according to Dr. Shetgiri.

On the flip side, she says parents who communicate with their children are less likely to create a bully.  “Parents who have met all or most of their kids friends, and whose kids finish all of their homework, that’s associated with a lower likelihood of having a child who’s a bully.”

She doesn’t know why homework may be a factor, but speculates, “It might be another measure of parental involvement with their kids and helping their kids be academically successful.  And that involvement, then, lowers the likelihood of a kid being a bully.”

The researchers also found a mom’s mental health may be key.   “If a mother self-reported her mental health as poor or fair—as opposed to good, very good, or excellent—those kids had a higher likelihood of being perpetrators of bullying.”

She says there are no data to show whether stay-at-home-parents have better luck than working parents. And the consequences of being the bully can create medical issues, too, according to Dr. Shetgiri.

“Bullies are at higher risk for depression, anxiety as they grow up and dropping out of school.”

She believes finding and addressing the root causes of bullying helps everyone involved.

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