Parent involvement key to stopping child bullying

April 02, 2010

Dr. Rashmi Shetgiri

An analysis of the 2007 National Survey of Children's Health found that parents' mental health status and their interactions with their child play an important role in whether that child is mean or cruel to others. "Improving parent-child communication and parental involvement with their children could have a substantial impact on child bullying," said Dr. Rashmi Shetgiri, the lead author of the analysis. Dr. Shetgiri is a pediatrician at Children's Medical Center and an instructor in Pediatrics at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

Surveyors from the National Survey of Children's Health talked to parents of nearly 46,000 children ages 10-17. Based on the phone calls, the prevalence of bullying among children those ages is about 15 percent in the United States, according to the analysis performed by Dr. Shetgiri. Data from the analysis were presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies' annual meeting in Vancouver, Canada, on May 3.

According to the analysis, factors that increase the likelihood of a child being a bully include:

  • Children with emotional or developmental problems or who have mothers with poor mental health.
  • Children with parents who frequently get angry with their child and feel that the child often does things that bother the parent a lot.

Factors that decrease the likelihood of a child being a bully include:

  • Older age of the child, children living in homes where the primary language is not English, and those who usually or always complete their homework.
  • Children with parents who share ideas with them, talk to them, and meet most of their friends.

The analysis also found that African-American and Latino children had a higher likelihood of being bullies compared to white children.

"Parents can work with healthcare providers to make sure any emotional or behavioral concerns that they have about their child, as well as their own mental health, are addressed," Dr. Shetgiri said. "Parents can also take advantage of parenting programs that can help them become aware of and manage negative feelings, such as anger, and respond to their child in a non-aggressive manner."