Bullied teens are up to 31 times more likely to bring a weapon to school compared to non-bullied students, according to research recently presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) annual meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
“Victims of bullying who have been threatened, engaged in a fight, injured, or had property stolen or damaged are much more likely to carry a gun or knife to school,” said senior investigator Andrew Adesman, M.D., F.A.A.P., chief of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Steven & Alexandra Cohen Children’s Medical Center of New York.
For the research, Adesman and principal investigator Lana Schapiro, M.D., F.A.A.P., analyzed data from the 2011 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System — a nationally representative survey of more than 15,000 U.S. high school students conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Students were asked to report if they had ever been bullied at school over the past year and asked how many days in the past month they brought a weapon onto school grounds.
The researchers studied whether any of the following risk factors increased the likelihood that victims would carry a weapon to school: not going to school due to feeling unsafe in school or on the way to school; had property stolen or damaged; had been threatened or injured with a weapon; and had been in a physical fight.
The findings showed that 20 percent of high school students reported being victims of bullying. Students who were bullied were more likely to be in lower grades, female, and white. They also were more likely to carry a weapon to school compared to peers who were not bullied (8.6 percent vs. 4.6 percent).
“Large numbers of high school students report having been victimized by bullies and admit to carrying a weapon to school. Greater efforts need to be expended on reducing bullying in all of its many forms,” said Schapiro.
There was also a significant increase in the likelihood that victims of bullying brought a weapon to school if they experienced multiple risk factors. Up to 28 percent of students experiencing one risk factor carried a weapon to school, while up to 62 percent with three risk factors brought a weapon.
“Tragedies like the Columbine High School massacre have alerted educators and the public to the grave potential for premeditated violence not just by bullies, but by their victims as well,” said Adesman. “Our analysis of data collected by the CDC clearly identifies which victims of bullying are most likely to carry a gun or other weapon to school.”
“With estimates of more than 200,000 victims of bullying carrying a weapon to high school, more effective prevention efforts and intervention strategies need to be identified,” said Schapiro. “The greatest focus should not just be on bullies, but on the victims of bullies most likely to carry a weapon and potentially use deadly force if threatened.”
Source: American Academy of Pediatrics