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Bullied Children at Greater Risk for Self-Harm, Study Finds

FRIDAY, April 27 (HealthDay News) -- Children who are bullied are three times more likely than others to self-harm by the time they are 12 years old, according to a new study.

A team of researchers from the United States and the United Kingdom said its findings, published online April 27 in the BMJ, could help identify those at greatest risk for this type of behavior.

Examples of self-harming behaviors included cutting and biting arms, pulling out clumps of hair, head-banging and attempted suicide by strangulation, the study said.

The researchers examined sets of twins born between 1994 and 1995 in England and Wales. Six months before their 12th birthday, the twins' risk for self-harm was assessed. This information was available for 2,141 participants.

The investigators found that 237 of the children were the victims of bullies. Of these kids, 8 percent engaged in self-harm. In contrast, of the 1,904 children who had not been bullied, only 2 percent had self-harmed.

Among the bullied children, the study authors pointed out several factors that further increased their risk for self-harm, including:

  • A family history of self-harming behavior
  • Maltreatment
  • Behavioral and emotional problems.

The researchers also noted in a journal news release that girls were more likely to self-harm than boys.

Lead study author Helen Fisher, of the Institute of Psychiatry at King's College London, and colleagues concluded that schools and health care professionals should intervene and protect bullied children by working to "reduce bullying and introduce self-harm risk-reduction programs." They added that systems should be in place to help children cope with the emotional distress of bullying.

More information

The Nemours Foundation has more about "cutting" among teens.

-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas

SOURCE: BMJ, news release, April 26, 2012

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