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Bullying Starts Before School Years Begin, Study Finds
Date:8/25/2014

By
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Aug. 25, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- In a finding that illustrates the complexity of bullying, Dutch researchers report that obese boys are more likely to bully and be bullied than their thinner peers and the vicious cycle begins before these children ever step foot inside a school.

Past research has shown an association between bullying and weight, but most of those studies focused on older children or teens. The average age of the children in this new study was 6.

"I was very surprised by how young these kids are," said Rachel Annuziato, an assistant professor for clinical psychology at Fordham University in New York City. "I think our understanding of bullying is that it's something that starts a little later cognitively and developmentally, but this suggests that isn't the case. From the day kids walk into school, this is a concern."

She said researchers have typically thought of bullying as a school-based phenomenon in which students learn bullying behavior from other kids. But these findings imply that kids are learning this behavior outside of school.

Annuziato said she also found it interesting that obesity increased the risk of being both a perpetrator and a victim for boys.

"Kids who are being picked on might start to think this is the way to fit in, to pick on other kids," she suggested. "That becomes their way to assert themselves after they've experienced bullying."

The link between being a bully and a victim of bullying may also offer clues to the link between bullying and obesity, said Susan Tortolero, a professor of public health at the University of Texas School of Public Health in Houston.

"A lot of these risk behaviors may have to do with self-regulation, self-discipline and decision-making, which gets
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