Preschool­ers be­ing bul­lied

Central Leader - - FRONT PAGE - SHABNAM DASTGHEIB

Po­ten­tially dam­ag­ing bul­ly­ing is hurt­ing New Zealand chil­dren even in preschool, and psy­chol­o­gists say it’s time to take the is­sue se­ri­ously.

The Univer­sity of Auck­land’s lon­gi­tu­di­nal study Grow­ing up in New Zealand has this month re­leased its Now We Are Four re­port which shows a con­cern­ing num­ber of 4-year-olds have dealt with bul­ly­ing on a reg­u­lar ba­sis.

The re­port’s re­searchers found bul­ly­ing be­hav­iour started early and was a fre­quent and per­sis­tent ex­pe­ri­ence for some.

For around one in ten chil­dren, be­ing bul­lied or picked on had been a part of life since they were two years old.

Just over a third of chil­dren had been bul­lied or picked on by other chil­dren at some stage by the time they were 4.

The re­port’s di­rec­tor Su­san Mor­ton said the num­bers were both con­cern­ing and sur­pris­ing. ‘‘We are in­ter­ested to see what im­pact it will have as chil­dren tran­si­tion to school and on their aca­demic suc­cess and their men­tal health.’’

Ques­tions about bul­ly­ing were put to par­ents of about 7000 chil­dren, who an­swered based on their per­cep­tions of their chil­dren and how of­ten they were up­set by their peers.

Child psy­chol­o­gists who had seen the re­port said bul­ly­ing was some­thing that was in­creas­ing in New Zealand pre-schools and schools.

Christchurch-based psy­chol­o­gist Cherin Se­lim said the num­bers high­lighted that bul­ly­ing was a se­ri­ous pub­lic health con­cern that needed to be ad­dressed.

‘‘Bul­ly­ing can im­pact on many facets of a child’s de­vel­op­men­tal and well­be­ing, par­tic­u­larly if it is per­sis­tent. It can have a detri­men­tal im­pact on so­cial and emo­tional ad­just­ment as well as aca­demic per­for­mance and more re­cently has been im­pli­cated in cases of youth sui­cide,’’ Se­lim said.

She said younger chil­dren weren’t able to de­velop ef­fec­tive cop­ing mech­a­nisms to coun­ter­act bul­ly­ing.

‘‘I of­ten see chil­dren who are or have a his­tory of be­ing bul­lied and as a re­sult ex­pe­ri­ence sig­nif­i­cant lev­els of anx­i­ety, poor self-es­teem, so­cial dif­fi­cul­ties, mood dis­or­ders and be­havioural is­sues. In some cases, the im­pact is so se­vere that chil­dren refuse to go to school, dis­play sui­ci­dal ideation and be­come in­creas­ingly more iso­lated,’’ Se­lim said. the im­pacts of

THOMAS BUSBY/FAIR­FAX NZ

Dr Su­san Mor­ton says the find­ings are con­cern­ing.

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