Preschoolers being bullied
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
Dr Susan Morton says the findings are concerning.