Stanford Medicine Newsletter Updates For the Local Community

School Bullying Affects Majority of Elementary Students

Summer 2007

Play eases the anxiety of Bernard Dannenberg's young patient.

Nine out of 10 elementary students have been bullied by their peers, according to a simple questionnaire developed by researchers at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital and the School of Medicine. What's more, nearly six in 10 children surveyed in the preliminary study reported participating in some type of bullying themselves in the past year.

The survey explored two forms of bullying: direct, such as threatening physical harm, and indirect, such as excluding someone or spreading rumors. The researchers say the five-minute questionnaire is the first simple, reliable way for teachers and physicians to identify kids at risk and to measure the success of interventions aimed at reducing bullying in schools.

"We know that both bullies and victims tend to suffer higher levels of depression and other mental health problems throughout their lives," said child psychiatrist Tom Tarshis, MD, lead author of the study. "We need to change the perception that bullying at school is a part of life and that victims just need to toughen up."

Tarshis was completing a fellowship in child psychiatry and research at Packard Children's at the time he developed the questionnaire. He and coauthor Lynne Huffman, MD, associate professor of pediatrics and of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, say they hope the questionnaire will be used by teachers, pediatricians and even child psychiatrists to identify children needing early and direct intervention.

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