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Substance Abuse a Risk Factor for Girls Who Are Bullied

Deborah Shipley's picture

A recent study suggests that adolescents girls who are bullied are more likely to engage in substance abuse behavior.

Jeremey Luk of the University of Washington published his findings of a study which was the first of it’s kind to link depression (resulting from bullying) and substance abuse. His study suggests that adolescent girls are particularly susceptible to substance abuse because of the resulting depression that develops from being bullied.

Dan Olweus, the creator of the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program, defines bullying as:

"A person is bullied when he or she is exposed, repeatedly and over time, to negative actions on the part of one or more other persons, and he or she has difficulty defending himself or herself."

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Bullying can be verbal, physical, social, or sexual in nature. There is also now the prevalent and rising issue of cyberbullying in this internet age. From the Stop Cyberbullying website:

“Cyberbullying is when a child, preteen or teen is tormented, threatened, harassed, humiliated, embarrassed or otherwise targeted by another child, preteen or teen using the Internet, interactive and digital technologies or mobile phones.”

The U.S. Health Behavior in School-aged Children (HBSC) survey was used to analyze the data and conclusions by Jeremy Luk at the University of Washington. This survey was given to a national sample of 1, 495 tenth graders that were asked questions about their mood, sleeping, and eating habits as well as their incidence of using substances during a 30-day time period.

Boys and girls are both at risk for developing depression as a result of being bullied, but girls were linked to the possible substance abuse link to bullying.
Bullying is a serious matter for any child. The effects on the child and family can be devastating. If parents are concerned about their child being a victim of bullying they should alert the school of the problem immediately. The parents may also want to find additional resources on bullying prevention program such as Olweus at: www.olweus.org/public/bullying.page. The US Department of Health and Human Services also has a website with tips for adults and kids to combat bullying: www.stopbullyingnow.hrsa.gov/adults/default.aspx.