Pediatrics: Psychosomatic Problems in Bullied Children

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Gianluca Gini, PhD and Tiziana Pozzoli, PhD
Department of Developmental and Social Psychology
University of Padua, Padua, Italy

MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings of the study?

Answer: Results of this meta-analysis show that bullied children are twice as likely as non-bullied children to experience psychosomatic symptoms (e.g., headache, stomachache, backache, abdominal pain, dizziness,  sleeping problems, poor appetite, bedwetting, skin problems, vomiting), especially in samples that included an higher proportion of boys.  Importantly, the same result was found not only with cross-sectional studies but also in a meta-analysis of six studies that employed a longitudinal design.


MedicalResearch.com: Were any of the findings unexpected?

Answer: Not really. This meta-analysis confirmed the findings of former studies with a much larger sample of studies and participants from several countries around the world.
MedicalResearch.com: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

It is very important that adults be ready to identify children who are at risk of being bullied. The results of this meta-analysis suggest that any recurrent and unexplained somatic symptom can be a warning sign of bullying victimization.  Because children do not easily talk about their bullying experiences, adults could approach the issue of bullying through general questions, for example by inquiring about the child’s experience and friends in school.  If the child seems to be withdrawn from peers, the adult should ask for the reason and check if teasing, name calling or deliberate exclusion may be involved. Asking if the child feels safe at school can further allow the adult to gain insight into the level of concern that the child is experiencing.

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Answer: We call for new research efforts aimed at elucidating the mechanisms through which bullying affects children’s health over time. Moreover, there is need for research that investigates how other environmental factors interact with peer victimization experiences to determine health risk. Longitudinal studies that address the mediating role of environmental factors on the peer victimization-health problems link are much needed.

Citation:

Bullied Children and Psychosomatic Problems: A Meta-analysis

Gianluca Gini and Tiziana Pozzoli
Pediatrics peds.2013-0614; published ahead of print September 16, 2013, doi:10.1542/peds.2013-0614

 

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