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Harassment in School Affects Majority of Elementary Students

A simple questionnaire prepared by researchers has found that nine out of ten elementary students// have been bullied by their peers. To add more to that it was found that at least six out of ten children reported themselves indulging in some type of bullying 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 is currently the director of the Bay Area Children's Association. The research will be published in the April issue of the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics.

"When I first started to study this subject, there was no real questionnaire that had been tested," said Tarshis. "We couldn't take the next step until we had a tool that we knew worked."

Although the classic definition of bullying brings to mind fistfights in the schoolyard, other more subtle forms of torment also were surveyed. Tarshis recounted a girl in the ninth grade whose friends decided to stop speaking to her, spread nasty rumors about her and exclude her from activities, all right under the nose of an unsuspecting teacher.

"It was a little distressing how prevalent the problem is even in the middle- to upper-middle-cla
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