Entries in Bullying (27)


Study: Bullying Leaves Psychological Scars Lasting into Adulthood

Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Children who are bullied can suffer serious psychological effects stretching well into adulthood, according to a new study led by Duke Medicine researchers.

Their report undercuts previous beliefs that most bullied children will eventually outgrow the abuse they receive from elders or peers.

In fact, the Duke researchers warn that physical and verbal torment can leave deep scars that make adults at a much greater risk for anxiety disorders, depression and suicidal thoughts.

Their findings, published in JAMA Psychiatry, are based on 20 years of research on bullied subjects from the time they were adolescents.

Dr. Bill Copeland, one of the study's lead authors, said that children who were abused and who later became bullies were destined for the worst outcome of all.

Copeland asserted that people in this group "were at five times increased risk for having depression, and they were about ten times increased risk for reporting some suicidality in adulthood."

Meanwhile, Copeland said that the reason why so many cases fly under the radar of psychiatrists treating bullied children is that they tend to focus more on problems at home than school issues where taunting can be more intense.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Study: Bullies Nearly Twice as Likely to Have Mental Health Disorder

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Mental disorders plague many adults who were bullied as children, but a new study suggests that those who had mental health disorders during childhood are three times more likely to become bullies.

Researchers at Brown University analyzed survey responses from parents of nearly 64,000 children ages 6 to 17 who were identified as having a mental health disorder, and those who were identified as bullies.

An estimated 15 percent of U.S. children in 2007 were identified as bullies by a parent or guardian, according to the responses, which were part of the 2007 National Survey of Children's Health.

Those who were considered the bullies were more than twice as likely to experience depression, anxiety and attention deficit disorder.  They were also six times more likely to be diagnosed with oppositional defiant disorder, characterized by ongoing episodes of anger and hostility, especially toward authority figures, such as parents, teachers or other adults.

"This study gives us a better understanding of the risk profiles of bullies," said Dr. Stefani Hines, director at the center for human development at Beaumont Children's Hospital in Royal Oak, Mich.

Hines was not involved in the study, which was presented Monday at the American Academy of Pediatrics annual meeting in New Orleans.

The findings do not surprise many experts, who say the symptoms of these disorders characterize many bullies.

According to Alan Hilfer, chief psychologist at Maimonedes Medical Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., the disorders, such as ADHD, "often lead to impulsive and at times aggressive behaviors" that are common among bullies.

Bullies often continue the cycle of social abuse that they have experienced themselves, he said.

"They can be depressed, fearful, and they often take out some of their anger and frustration on others down the pecking order," said Hilfer.

Support is often given to the bullied peers who are seen as victims, the researchers said.  Many bullies should also be viewed as victims and offered help to change their behavior, they said.

"This finding emphasizes the importance of providing psychological support to not only victims of bullying but bullies as well," the researchers wrote.

The study did not look at the likelihood that bullies would have a mental health disorder, only that some children who have a disorder were more likely to be identified as bullies.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Gay Boy Scout, Bullied by Troop, Denied Eagle Rank

Courtesy Karen Andresen(NEW YORK) -- Ryan Andresen has spent a decade completing the requirements for the coveted Eagle Scout award, and now that he is just about to turn 18 -- the cut-off date for attaining the highest honor -- his Boy Scout troop won't approve it because he is gay.

His project, a "tolerance wall," was inspired by the years of hazing he endured in middle school in Moraga, Calif., and later at Boy Scout summer camp, where his nicknames were "Tinkerbell" and "faggot."

"I had I had no idea what gay was at that point," said Andresen, who described hazing that included, among other rituals, having the word "fag" written in charcoal across his chest.

"It was really embarrassing and humiliating," he said.  "And I was terrified."

His mom, Karen Andresen, was so upset by the troops' decision that she posted a petition on that has topped more than 22,000 signatures.

"It was not his idea, it was mine," she said.

In the petition, Karen Andresen cited the merit badge -- "Citizenship in the Community."

"[It] means standing up for what is right, and I am proud of Ryan for doing just that," she wrote.  "Will you stand with him, too?"

His father, Eric Andresen, who had joined the troop as the chief administrator to help his son with the bullying, was confronted by the scoutmaster and told that because Ryan was gay, he could not sign off on the project.  His father resigned "on the spot."

"He wants nothing to do with the troop," said his wife.

Deron Smith, spokesman for the Boy Scouts of America, told ABC News in a statement: "This scout proactively notified his unit leadership and Eagle Scout counselor that he does not agree to scouting's principle of 'Duty to God' and does not meet scouting's membership standard on sexual orientation.  Agreeing to do one's 'Duty to God' is a part of the scout Oath and Law and a requirement of achieving the Eagle Scout rank."

Smith also said that even though the Boy Scouts does not actively ask the sexual orientation of boys, discussions with the Andresens have made Ryan "no longer eligible for membership in scouting."

He said the "ideals and principles" in the Scout Oath and Law are "central to the mission of teaching young people to make better choices over their lifetimes."

A senior and honors student who hopes to go the University of San Francisco, Ryan joined the Boy Scouts at age 6.

He came out to his parents when he was "around 16," said his mother.  In July, he wrote a letter to the troop in response to a bullying incident and "thought he could help," disclosing he was gay.

But just this week the scoutmaster of Troop 212, Rainer Del Valle, refused to give the final signature on Ryan's project, one that he had initially approved, according to the Andresens.

Del Valle did not immediately respond to an email and a telephone call from ABC News.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Texas Woman Can't Gain Weight, Bullied Over Looks

Courtesy Lizzie Velasquez(NEW YORK) -- Lizzie Velasquez gets a lot of stares.  The 23-year-old senior at Texas State University stands 5 feet, 2 inches tall and weighs just 58 pounds.

"I can't gain weight," said Velasquez, describing the rare syndrome that blocks her body from storing fat.  As a result, Velasquez is skin and bones despite eating around the clock.

"My stomach is so small that I can't eat that much," she said.  "So about 30 minutes after eating I'm ready to eat again.  I snack a lot just to keep my energy up."

The cause of Velasquez's syndrome -- so rare that it has no name -- is a mystery. Only two other people are known to have it, and countless genetic tests have turned up nothing.

"She's missing all of her adipose tissue," said Dr. Atul Chopra, a resident in medical genetics at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, describing the layer of cells under the skin that plump up with dietary fat.  "We just don't know why."

Velasquez was born by emergency C-section weighing just less than three pounds -- half of what was expected for the 36-week pregnancy.  And ever since, she's been poked, prodded and stared out by dozens of doctors trying to diagnose and treat her mysterious condition.

"Once I got to about age 13, I kind of got tired of it," said Velasquez, who besides her frail frame and blindness in her right eye is surprisingly healthy.  "I realized I don't really want a cure for this syndrome.  If a doctor found a magic pill or some surgery that would help me gain weight, I wouldn't want it.  All the struggles I've had made me who I am today."

Those struggles have been many.  Velasquez is still bullied because of her gaunt look, but says her elementary school years were the worst.

"I felt like some sort of monster," she said, recalling her first day of kindergarten.  "I never told anyone how bad I was being picked on because I was embarrassed.  When I would take a bath at night, that's when I would cry."
Every September, Velasquez's dad, Lupe -- a teacher at her school -- would stand up in front of her class and say, "This is Lizzie.  She's just like you guys, she just looks a little different," Velasquez said.  "It was a huge help."

Now, Velasquez is using her victory over bullying to inspire others.  On top of a full course load, she's penned two books and delivered motivational speeches to young students across Texas.  She also made an "It Gets Better" YouTube video with nearly 2.5 million views.

"I tell everyone, 'Even though you don't have my syndrome, you might be able to relate to the struggles I've had,'" she said, explaining how talking about bullying is therapeutic for her, too.  "It's kind of the grown-up version of my dad coming to class."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Bullied 14-Year-Old Girl Gets Plastic Surgery to Fix Ears, Nose, Chin

Courtesy the Iles Family(NEW YORK) -- At first glance, Nadia Iles, 14, exudes an air of confidence that many other girls her age lack.  But that confidence was hard won.

Teased about her big ears since she was 7 years old, Iles found school a nightmare.  Her classmates tormented her, and she couldn’t bear to look at herself in the mirror.

“I felt horrible.  I felt like I was like dirt,” she said, in an interview with ABC's Good Morning America.  “They said that I have the biggest ears that they’ve ever seen.  They called me ‘Dumbo,’ ‘elephant ears.’”

The teasing and bullying escalated, and Iles, of Cummings, Ga., started to believe the negativity.

“I kind of got into this shell and I actually skipped school a lot,” she said.  “I made excuses.  I would say my stomach hurt, say that I was sick even though I wasn’t.”

Iles would cry a lot on the way home from the bus stop and at night before she went to sleep.  It got so bad that she even contemplated suicide.

“I actually did think about suicide but I wasn’t pushed, I didn’t really want to.  I didn’t think that was the solution,” she said.

Iles’ troubles came as a shock to her mother.  Because Lynda Iles had recently been laid off, and had a 9-year-old son, Joshua, who was battling cerebral palsy, Nadia didn’t want to bother her mother with her problems.

“I’m heartbroken about it,” Lynda Iles said, speaking of her daughter’s torment, including her thoughts of suicide.  “I didn’t realize that it was that bad.  She would mostly say that she has migraines.”

Eventually, Nadia told her mother everything and begged for surgery to pin her ears back.  Lynda Iles couldn’t afford it, so she turned to the Little Baby Face Foundation, a Manhattan-based organization that provides free surgery for children with facial deformities who have a financial need.

Dr. Thomas Romo, the president of the organization, found Nadia’s story compelling.  He performed surgery on her in June, pinning her ears back, and also operating on her nose and chin.  Romo performed $40,000 worth of work for free.

Asked if they were concerned that operating on Nadia conveyed the message that other bullied children needed to have plastic surgery, Romo replied: “She wasn’t picked to have her surgery because she was bullied.  She was picked for her surgery because of her deformities.”

“It was just something that we chose to do.  It’s no different than somebody having teeth that require braces,” Lynda Iles added.

Nadia no longer has a problem looking at herself in the mirror.

“I see a new me, a beautiful girl,” she said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Cyberbullying Less Frequent than Traditional Bullying

Jupiterimages/Liquidlibrary/Thinkstock(ORLANDO, Fla.) -- Bullying is an age-old problem that has taken on a new dimension with the Internet. With the introduction of social networking and mobile devices, gone are the days when a young student being bullied at school could simply go home to get away from antagonizers.
But a new study presented to the American Psychological Association finds old-fashioned bullying is still far more common than the cyber version.

"Claims by the media and researchers that cyberbullying has increased dramatically and is now the big school bullying problem are largely exaggerated," psychologist Dan Olweus of the University of Bergen, Norway, said in a statement. "There is very little scientific support to show that cyberbullying has increased over the past five to six years, and this form of bullying is actually a less frequent phenomenon."
Olweus and researchers surveyed 450,000 of U.S. students in grades three to 12.
On average, the researchers reported, 18 percent said they had been verbally bullied while only five percent said they had been cyberbullied. Although conversely 10 percent said they had bullied others and three percent said they had cyberbullied others.

Olweus says that, despite the attention drawn by internet bullies, new media have actually created few new bullies or new victims. He recommends that schools direct most of their efforts in combating traditional bullying.

But, Olweus notes in the study, cyberbullied children, much like targets of traditional bullying, still may suffer from depression, poor self-esteem, anxiety or suicide thoughts.  

Still, he says, "it is difficult to know to what extent these problems actually are a consequence of cyberbullying itself. As we've found, this is because the great majority of cyberbullied children and youth are also bullied in traditional ways, and it is well documented that victims of traditional bullying suffer from the bad treatment they receive."

"Nonetheless, there are some forms of cyberbullying -- such as having painful or embarrassing pictures or videos posted -- which almost certainly have negative effects. It is therefore important also to take cyberbullying seriously both in research and prevention," Olweus says.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Obesity and Bullying Top Voters' Child Health Concerns

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(ANN ARBOR, Mich.) -- The economy dominates this election season but it’s not the only issue that Americans are worried about.

With the Supreme Court ready to rule on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, voters are thinking about health care reform and what’s on the top of their list of concerns.

According to a new University of Michigan study, 2,100 adults were told to pick the topic related to children’s health that they want the presidential candidates to address.

Number one on the list out of 24 common concerns turned out to be childhood obesity, with bullying a close second. These issues were followed by teenage drug use and child abuse and neglect.

Matthew Davis of the University of Michigan said adults' political party affiliation or race/ethnicity did not factor in their picks, adding, “These are common issues that we can agree on, no matter your choice of presidential candidates.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Maryland Teen Threatened Suicide If School Doesn't Stop Cyber Bullying

Comstock/Thinkstock(GAMBRILLS, Md.) -- A Maryland teenager who identified herself only as Sarah was so frustrated with what she said was her high school's nonchalant attitude towards her reports of bullying that she went online and threatened suicide if the school didn't do something about it.

Arundel High School administrators are working this week to quell the firestorm that her note has started.

Her post on reddit asked, "The cyber bullying has gotten to the point where the school will not take any action unless I kill myself. reddit- how do I get my story out and make this stop?"

The message, posted last Wednesday, was from a second-semester senior who described a world in which her bully, someone who she describes as well-known and liked, would say, "Go kill yourself. No one would care if you died. Why aren't you dead yet?"

The girl was given that message repeatedly online and in person since the beginning of the school year, she wrote on reddit.

Sarah said in her note that she had contacted school officials several times, each time to no avail.

"As a teenager dealing with depression and suicidal thoughts, I could not laugh this off. I went straight to the office and demanded to see a vice principal. I was sobbing uncontrollably and visibly a danger to myself, but they just sat me down and had me fill out a form. I called my Dad, who cancelled his flight out-of-town to come be with me. He was furious that he was not called in a situation like this. We had a conference with the vice principal, and we were told there would be consequences if it happened again," the note said.

Anne Arundel County School District spokesman Bob Mosier would neither confirm nor deny whether or not Sarah had gone to officials before.

Administrators say that they were first notified of Sarah's note early Wednesday morning, around 1:30 a.m. after the reddit note had gone viral. Mosier says that officials received a slew of emails notifying them of the incident.

"It was a bit of an early-morning mystery," Mosier said. He said that he received emails from all across the country as well as from locations in Canada.

"When you were growing up, your circle of friends is right around the block. Now that includes Canada and Germany and Australia. It [the suicide note] certainly gets a very large audience very quickly," he said.

Mosier, along with other officials, sifted through the thousands of comments to garner clues on who Sarah may be. After hours of sleuthing, they determined that she attended Arundel High School. The next morning, police officers and administrators met with several possible girls until they found the right one.

Sarah retold her account of the incident in an edit to her original reddit post.

"I get off my bus this morning, and I see an unusual amount of cops around the school. I find the group who was going with me into the office, and we sat in guidance, waiting for the counselor to see us all (There were about six of us). Next thing I know, someone asks me if I'm Sarah. They had been looking for this 'Sarah' all morning, and had even called down another girl by the same name. I get taken into one of the counselor's rooms, and a book of these comments is placed in front of me. She tells me that she has gotten a ton of emails, and that the page has been forwarded to several teachers and the principal. I was shocked," she said.

Mosier said that disciplinary action was taken against her bully and that the school is still counseling Sarah.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Facebook Shuts Down ‘Most Beautiful Teen’ Page

Peter Foley/Bloomberg via Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- A Facebook page that solicited sexy pictures from teenagers hoping to be named the “The Most Beautiful Teen in the World” has been taken down after it sparked outrage from concerned parents and security experts.

The page violated Facebook’s statement of rights and responsibilities, Facebook said in a statement Wednesday. “We do not tolerate bullying and take action on content reported to us which we categorize as such,” the statement read.

Teens began uploading pictures on the “Competition for the Most Beautiful Teenager” page as soon as it was created. The often-provocative photos, many showing boys with their shirts off and girls in bikinis, posing in their bedrooms and bathrooms were then judged by other Facebook users in comments for all to see.

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“I would not touch with a ten-foot pole,” one comment read.

“Her nose is too big,” another read.

The harsh language and the concept of such a competition were too much for Marcy Kemp-Rank, whose 15-year-old daughter, Amy, introduced her to the site after submitting her own photos to be judged.

“She read them [the comments] to me, several of them, and I couldn’t handle hearing them because it just made me very upset and angry,” Kemp-Rank told ABC News.  “I think that was a good thing they took it down.  I think it was a way of bullying.”

The “Competition for the Most Beautiful Teenager” page, and the many like it still available to teens on other websites, also raised red flags, security experts say, about online predators.

The page shut down by Facebook was open to anyone, meaning it did not require users to “friend” the publisher, or “like” the page in order to log on and see the thousands of pictures of young boys and girls.

“It is an absolute pool for people that like this sort of thing for the absolute wrong reason,” John Abell, New York bureau chief for, told ABC News.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Bullied Teen Hangs Self After Writing She Loves 'All My Haterz'

File photo. Hemera/Thinkstock(VANCOUVER, Wash.) -- A 14-year-old girl whose Facebook page says she loves "all my haterz" has committed suicide after enduring two years of bullying by her female classmates, her family claims.

Eden Wormer, an eighth grader at Cascade Middle School in Vancouver, Wash. hung herself Wednesday.

The girl's family told ABC News affiliate KATU that she committed suicide after two years of being bullied by girls in her class. Wormer's older sister, Audri, told the station that Eden changed her appearance several times in an effort to fit in and begged her older sister not to report the bullying because she thought it would only make the problem worse.

Wormer's Facebook page is a bittersweet mix of tween angst where she wrote: "im super funny and out going i love all my friends n family n that includes all my haterz.! :) n im funn to hang around too. :)"

In a Feb. 12 post, she wrote: "omg im such a loner i dont have a valentines n the only thing im celebrating valentines day with is my bummble bee pillow pet. like this iff u hhave no valentines too or iff u wanna be my valentine. :)"

Police in Vancouver say they haven't found evidence that the alleged bullying violated any state laws, according to KATU. Both the school and the Evergreen School District are talking to students and investigating what might have happened and whether any bullying had been documented.

Following her death, Wormer's friends wrote mournful words on her Facebook page. Brook Radtke wrote: "Eden you are an amazing [betuifl] person i will miss you forever love isabel abd brook."

Another friend, Samantha Lynn, wrote, "I wish it didn't take people this long to relize how beautiful you are and how unique you are. You are the sweetest girl in the world. I wish you knew you didn't have to fit in. It's good to stand out."

Wormer's suicide is the latest in a string of youthful suicides that have been attributed to bullying and have prompted a spate of anti-bullying legislation across the country.

Carol Fenstermacher, director of community relations at Evergreen School District, told ABC News that she couldn't comment on this individual case. However, she says she wished someone in the school or community had been able to investigate the bullying claims before such a tragedy occurred.

"It's something that the school community is going to be dealing with for a while," she said.

The school district maintains a website to keep students and parents informed about bullying and harassment, and features a Safe Schools Alert system in which people can anonymously report bullying by phone, text or email. So far this school year, Fenstermacher says there have been 11 reported incidents of bullying at Cascade, which is fairly typical for a middle school, but the type of bullying may vary.

"When there are reports, they're looked at," said Fenstermacher. "We call kids in, and we talk to them. It was disturbing to hear family members saying, 'We didn't call the school.' Please do. If you fear retaliation, do it anonymously, because it's still going to be checked out."

Mike Donlin, program supervisor for the School Safety Center at Washington's Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, said that the state passed comprehensive anti-bullying and harassment legislation in 2010 that defines bullying and requires a set of procedures that all schools must follow.

Although cases of suicide in connection with bullying are rare, "in my mind, the tragedy is that we often forget," he said. "That young person was screaming out for help. We have to learn from this and make sure that we deal with things."

Donlin's School Safety Center also maintains a working group to fight harassment and bullying, and it's scheduled to convene next week. Donlin said he imagines that Eden's case will be discussed at length.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio