Parents Have Key Role In Whether Their Child is a Bully


Both bullying and cyberbullying have two main players: the bully and the victim. New research shows that parents have a key role in whether their child becomes the bully, and that parents who act on this knowledge may help reduce the incidence of bullying and cyberbullying.

Parents can help reduce bullying

Both bullying and cyberbullying have become all too familiar, resulting, in some cases, in serious harm and even suicide among its many young victims. The 2009 Indicators of School Crime and Safety reports that one third of teens reported being bullied at school, 20 percent of teens had been made fun of by a bully, 18 percent of teens had gossip or rumors spread about them, and 11 percent were physically bullied.

Bullying is not a one-time event for many children. About two-thirds of bully victims were bullied once or twice during the school year, 20 percent were bullied once or twice a month, and 10 percent were bullied daily or several times a week. Despite all of this bullying, only about one third of victims reported the incidents to someone at school.

The new research, presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies annual meeting in Denver on May 1, 2011, showed that parents can have a key part in reducing the chances that their children will be a bully. Rashmi Shetgiri, MD, FAAP, assistant professor of pediatrics at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and Children’s Medical Center, Dallas, and her team evaluated the prevalence of bullying reported by parents who participated in the National Survey of Children’s Health from 2003-2007, as well as factors associated with the risk that a child bullied others.


The Survey results showed that 35 percent of children had bullied other youngsters in 2007, compared with 23 percent in 2003. The researchers found factors that increase the chances that children will be a bully include the following:

  • Those whose parents often feel angry with them or feel their children bother them a lot
  • Those who have an emotional, behavioral, or developmental problem. Twenty percent of bullies have such a problem, more than three times the rate in children who are not bullies.
  • Those whose mothers have less than very good mental health

Some factors that can help prevent children from becoming a bully include:

  • Parents who talk with their children and share ideas
  • Parents who have met most or all of their children’s friends
  • Parents who find effective ways to manage their anger toward their children

Parents can take steps to help prevent their child from becoming a bully by recognizing and acting on the risk factors. Dr. Shetgiri suggested that “Targeting interventions to decrease these persistent risk factors and increase the persistent protective factors could lead to decreased bullying.”

Parents may want to turn to health care providers to help them find effective ways to deal with emotional or behavioral problems their child may be experiencing, as well as address their own mental health, in their quest to help prevent their child from being a bully.

2009 Indicators of School Crime and Safety, Bullying Statistics
Pediatric Academic Societies


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