Originally published on Savvy Auntie.
“Bullied Children and Psychosomatic Problems: A Meta-analysis” (Pediatrics, October 2013), a recent study reported by HealthDay News, shows that recurring and unexplained physical or psychosomatic symptoms are twice as likely to occur in children who are bullied than in those who are not bullied. Researchers reviewed data from 30 different studies worldwide, representing almost 220,000 school-aged children from 14 countries, and examined the association between being bullied and unexplained physical problems in children.
“The results of this study suggest that any recurrent and unexplained physical symptom can be a warning sign of bullying,” states author Gianluca Gini, assistant professor of developmental psychology at the University of Padua, Italy. Unusual physical health symptoms may include headaches, loss of appetite, sleeping problems, abdominal pain, or bedwetting. Some other common complaints among children included stomach aches, back aches, neck or shoulder pain, dizziness, trouble breathing, tense muscles, nausea, and diarrhea.
Study experts suggest that paying close attention to the timing of kids’ complaints and asking the right questions can help adults determine whether or not bullying experiences are to blame. Marlene Snyder, a faculty member in the Institute on Family and Neighborhood Life at Clemson University, South Carolina, explained that bullied kids can often seem sad, depressed, or just not themselves:
A lot of kids refuse to go to school. These headaches and stomachaches are there before a school bell or a school bus and then magically disappear. […] I think the first thing is really finding time to really observe, watch, and talk with kids so you know when something is off. Ask them questions: ‘How was your day? Who did you sit with at lunch?’ […] You have to start taking a look at what’s happening with the friend routine. Has the phone stopped ringing? Are they afraid to check their text messages?
Questions for Auntie To Ask
Keeping the lines of communication open and talking about bullying with nieces and nephews is an important step to understanding how the issue may play a role in their daily lives. Here are a few questions that may help to start up conversation:
What was one good thing that happened in school today?
Did anything bad happen?
Who do you sit with at lunchtime?
What kinds of things do you talk about when you’re having lunch with friends?
Why do you think some people bully others?
Have you ever felt scared to go to school?
Have you ever tried to help another kid who was being bullied?