Screening for bullying problems in the course of children’s routine check-ups should be a part of pediatricians’ practice, says a new policy statement issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics on preventing youth violence. Pediatricians should also advocate for greater bullying awareness and more bullying prevention in local schools, says the statement, which revises an 11-year-old policy on youth violence and for the first time addresses bullying.
The AAP policy cites the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program as a school-basedmodel that has been shown to be effective in Europe. Research on its implementation may be lacking in the U.S., but European researchers have been active on this issue for over 30 years, the AAP says. The Olweus program recognizes that each bullying episodeinvolves 3 groups of children: bullies, victims,and bystanders and proposes specific interventions at the school-wide, classroom, and individual levels. The program focuses attention on bystanders, helping those children realize that the bully is someone who has a problem managing his or her behavior and that the victim is someone they should protect.
About 30% of children have been involved in bullying and/or being bullied on the basis of a large sample of 6th- to 10th-graders. Pediatricians and schools should be as concerned about bullies as their targets. Bullying is associated with violence-related behavioral markers, including weapon carrying and frequent fighting and psychosocial consequences such as depression and suicidalideation, the AAP says.
It is clear that in this country, it must first be accepted that bullying behaviors cannot be considered a normative rite of passage and that they can be precursors for more serious downstream consequences,” the AAP says.
Other roles for pediatricians include guiding and counseling families and children involved in bullying, referring patients to treatment or services for violence-related problems and providing parent education materials.
Role of the Pediatrician in Youth Violence Prevention, Committee on Injury, Violence, and Poison Prevention, American Academy of Pediatrics, July 1, 2009