Academic journal article Journal of School Health

Bullying and Smoking: Examining the Relationships in Ontario Adolescents

Academic journal article Journal of School Health

Bullying and Smoking: Examining the Relationships in Ontario Adolescents

Article excerpt

Once considered a rite of passage, childhood bullying has become a concern for educators, health professionals, and parents alike. Dramatic events such as the death of a schoolgirl at the hands of bullies in British Columbia, Canada, or American school shootings by victims of bullies highlight tragedies that can result from bullying.(1) However, bullying and its consequences also can be less obvious, such as depression arising from social exclusion or rumor spreading. (2) So, where does teasing end and bullying begin? What distinguishes bullying from forms of aggression such as gang fights? Aggression is bullying if there is (1) malicious intent, (2) repeated behavior, and (3) a power imbalance (psychologically, socially, or physically) between the bully or group and the victim(s). (3) More precisely, "bullying involves a desire to hurt + hurtful action + a power imbalance + (typically) repetition + an unjust use of power + evident enjoyment by the aggressor and a sense of being oppressed on the part of the victim." (4) Therefore, bullying includes both direct (physical) aggression and indirect (relational) aggression. (5)

Prevalence of Bullying

Among 36 countries studied in the World Health Organization's 2001-2002 Health Behavior in School-Aged Children (HBSC) survey, Canada was in the top quartile for bullying prevalence and the top third for victimization prevalence. The prevalence of bullying at least once in the past 6 weeks was 54% for boys and 27% for girls. Victimization was reported by 34% of boys and 27% of girls. (6) For younger Canadians, nearly 10% of those aged 4-11 were labeled as bullies by their parents. (7)

According to a random half sample (n = 2243) from the 2001 Ontario Student Drug Use Survey (OSDUS), one quarter (24.6%) of Ontario students said that they had been bullied at school since the beginning of the year while 31.8% reported bullying others. Bullying was significantly more common among boys than girls; among boys, 40.0% bullied others, whereas only 24.0% of girls were bullies. Boys were also more likely to be victims than girls (26.9% of boys vs 22.3% of girls). (8)

Consequences and Characteristics of Bullying

Involvement in bullying as either a perpetrator (ie, bully) or a victim is associated with a variety of negative health and social outcomes. A meta-analysis of victimization research showed that victims of peer aggression tended to be lonelier and more depressed than nonvictims; (9) according to one study, victims were 7.7 times more likely to be depressed than those who were neither perpetrators nor victims. (10)

Victims were also more likely than nonvictims to worry a lot and to find school hard in an American cross-sectional study. The same study showed that compared to nonbullies, bullies were less likely to talk to parents about problems. (11) An Australian study found that bullying was associated with increased psychosomatic symptoms compared with students who were neither perpetrators nor victims. (12)

Bullying is also associated with adolescent problem behaviors. In Israel, Ireland, Sweden, and Portugal, having been bullied (victimization) was a significant predictor of physical fighting. (13) The American HBSC study similarly found that fighting was significantly associated with each of victims, bullies, and bully/victims. This study also showed that weekly alcohol consumption was positively associated with bullying and negatively associated with being a victim. (3) In an Ontario study, youth who were highly involved with indirect aggression were 3.4 times more likely to be highly involved with gambling than youth who were not involved with indirect aggression. (14)

Relationships Between Bullying and Smoking

Another adolescent problem behavior with which bullying may be associated is smoking. Previous study results have been inconclusive; some studies have shown differences in smoking rates among bullies, victims, bully/ victims, and students who were neither bullies nor victims, while other studies have found no differences. …

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