Being clever at school ‘raises risk of bullying’
INTELLIGENT children face a greater risk of being bullied at school, according to a study.
Others more likely to be targeted included those with depression or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), as well as those who were overweight.
One of the researchers, Professor JeanBaptiste Pingault, of University College London, said identifying these traits is essential to prevent the problem, which can have ‘adverse consequences’ for life.
The findings were based on responses from 5,000 participants – roughly half boys, half girls – in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, which has been tracking families since the early 1990s.
A total of 87 per cent reported some form of bullying at least once at the ages of eight, ten and 13.
The average was twice, with the strongest links connected to mood such as symptoms of depression, along with intelligence and educational attainment. Experiences ranged from ‘overt’ incidents such as having personal belongings taken to ‘relational’ bullying such as exclusion by peers, the journal JAMA Psychiatry reported.
The researchers used a technique called polygenic risk scoring to calculate people’s
‘Early mental health care’
chance of being bullied based on genetic predisposition for vulnerabilities such as depression and traits such as intelligence.
Professor Pingault said: ‘The largest associations were present for genetic risk relating to mental health vulnerabilities, including diagnosis of depression and ADHD, followed by risk-taking, body mass index and intelligence.’
Lead author Dr Tabea Schoeler said: ‘The main takeaway point is that mental health vulnerabilities can increase the risk of experiencing bullying and it is an argument for early mental health care.’
An earlier study by the same team found evidence that bullying leads to mental health problems such as increases in levels of anxiety, depression and hyperactivity.
Dr Schoeler said: ‘Our follow-up now highlights that repeated exposure to bullying can be interrupted by addressing vulnerabilities that can put an individual at risk of becoming a victim in the first place.’
Surveys have shown half of primary school pupils and one in ten secondary pupils in England experience daily bullying.