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Victims of recurrent bullying are more likely to carry weapons to school

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Scores of bullying victims are bringing weapons to school, says new research offered in a presentation today. A recent study shows adolescents who are harassed in multiple ways most likely to carry gun or knife on campus, says the new study, "Exponential, Not Additive, Increase in Risk of Weapons Carrying by Adolescents Who Themselves Are Frequent and Recurrent Victims of Bullying." The abstract of the research is online. Bullying can take many forms. Students who have been victimized repeatedly and in multiple ways are most likely to carry a weapon in school and in the community. More effective interventions must be implemented to protect those students who are recurrent victims of bullying.

An estimated 200,000 high school students who are bullied bring weapons to school, according to research presented Sunday, May 4, 2014 at the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) annual meeting (Pediatric Academic Societies and Asian Society for Pediatric Research Joint Meeting) in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, according to the May 4, 2014 news release, "Scores of bullying victims bringing weapons to school."

Researchers also found that youths who have been victimized in multiple ways are up to 31 times more likely to carry a weapon to school than those who have not been bullied. "Victims of bullying who have been threatened, engaged in a fight, injured, or had property stolen or damaged are much more likely to carry a gun or knife to school," said senior investigator Andrew Adesman, MD, FAAP, according to the May 4, 2014 news release, "Scores of bullying victims bringing weapons to school." Adesman is chief of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Steven & Alexandra Cohen Children's Medical Center of New York.

Dr. Adesman and principal investigator Lana Schapiro, MD, FAAP, analyzed data from the 2011 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System. The system includes a nationally representative survey of more than 15,000 U.S. high school students conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Students were asked if they had ever been bullied on school property in the past year and on how many days in the past month they carried a weapon on school grounds.

The researchers looked at whether any of the following risk factors increased the likelihood that victims would carry a weapon to school: not going to school due to feeling unsafe in school or on the way to school; had property stolen or damaged; had been threatened or injured with a weapon; and had been in a physical fight. They also looked at what occurred when students experienced multiple risk factors.

Results showed that 20 percent of high school students reported being victims of bullying

Those who were bullied were more likely to be in lower grades, females and white. They also were more likely to carry a weapon to school than kids who were not bullied (8.6 percent vs. 4.6 percent).

"Large numbers of high school students report having been victimized by bullies and admit to carrying a weapon to school. Greater efforts need to be expended on reducing bullying in all of its many forms," said Dr. Schapiro, according to the news release. The researchers also found a dramatic increase in the likelihood that victims of bullying went to school with a weapon if they experienced multiple risk factors. Up to 28 percent of students experiencing one risk factor brought a weapon to school, while up to 62 percent of those experiencing three risk factors carried a weapon on campus.

"Tragedies like the Columbine High School massacre have alerted educators and the public to the grave potential for premeditated violence not just by bullies, but by their victims as well," said Dr. Adesman, according to the news release. "Our analysis of data collected by the CDC clearly identifies which victims of bullying are most likely to carry a gun or other weapon to school."

"With estimates of more than 200,000 victims of bullying carrying a weapon to high school, more effective prevention efforts and intervention strategies need to be identified," Dr. Schapiro added, according to the news release. "The greatest focus should not just be on bullies, but on the victims of bullies most likely to carry a weapon and potentially use deadly force if threatened."

Dr. Schapiro presented "Exponential, Not Additive, Increase in Risk of Weapons Carrying by Adolescents Who Themselves Are Frequent and Recurrent Victims of Bullying" from 1:30-1:45 p.m. Sunday, May 4, 2014.

She also presented "Association between Victims of Bullying and Weapon Carrying among High School Students in the United States" on May 4, 2014. Updates were made to the study's abstract since it was submitted to PAS. Dr. Schapiro's presentation is "Association between Victims of Bullying and Weapon Carrying Among High School Students in the United States." The presentations were given by Lana Schapiro and Andrew Adesman. Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, Cohen Children's Medical Center of New York, New Hyde Park, NY. No outside funding was received for this research.

In the wake of Columbine and other school-based tragedies, public health efforts have intensified to reduce the incidence of bullying

Although verbal taunts are most common in grade and middle school, physical assaults with fear of lethal retaliation are greatest in the high school (HS) setting. To date, there has been no analysis of HS students nation-wide with respect to weapons carrying by victims of bullying, the study's abstract explains.

The objective of the new research is to identify the frequency of weapons carrying in high school and in general by VoB, and to identify demographic and social risk factors in the United States. Data from the CDC's 2011 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System were analyzed for grades 9-12.

Noteworthy is the result of the research, according to its abstract. Researchers found that 20% of High School students were victims of bullying within the past 12 months. Interestingly, victims of bullying were more common in younger grades, were females, and were Caucasians.

The study found victims of bullying were more likely to carry weapons in school and carry a gun in general within the last 30 days (of being bullied)

The likelihood of carrying a weapon on school property was higher in victims of bullying who had been threatened or injured with a weapon, or been in a physical fight on school property within the last 12 months, according to the study's abstract. Carrying a weapon was much more common in victims of bullying previously threatened/injured and been in a fight. Carrying a weapon increased when fear of going to school was added as a risk factor. Similar findings were noted for carrying a gun in general.

The study's abstract concluded by noting that bullying remains widespread among high school students. With estimates of more than 200,000 victims of bullying carrying a weapon to High School, more effective prevention efforts and intervention strategies need to be identified, with greatest focus not just on bullies, but on the victims of bullies most likely to carry a weapon and use deadly force if threatened. The presentation title is, "Platform Session: Addressing Adolescent Health Risk through Public Health Interventions." You also may wish to see the website of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

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