Youth Who Bully More Likely to Have a Mental Health Diagnosis

Much of the of the media coverage on peer-to-beer bullying in schools focuses on the mental health of the victims. This kind of coverage makes sense both in appeal to the public and the connection between being bullied and feelings of despair and suicidal ideation. However, a paper presented today at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) National Conference and Exhibition in New Orleans suggests that children and adolescents with mental disorders were more likely to bully other youth.   The presentation and paper, Association Between Mental Health Disorders and Bullying In the United States Among Children Aged 6 to 17 Years, may turn bullying intervention and prevention programs on their heads as the data show youth with depression or Oppositional Defiant Disorder are more likely to be fingered as bullies than their peers.

Studies indicate that at least 8 percent of American youth have serious emotional disorders  – how much of the bullying going on among adolescents is related to typical (although needlessly painful for those on the receiving end) developmental behaviors versus repeated acts of aggression related to, if not a symptom of, a known or unknown behavioral health issue? And regarding the family of the bully – so often maligned in comboxes across the internet, though at times with reason- perhaps these findings indicate that we should stop debating whether is it over-parenting or under-parenting that forms the bully and start looking at the emotional,  psychological and physical wellness of the child, even if it means recognizing something that we’d prefer to pretend we never noticed.