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Media Report
AMA asks physicians to help reduce bullying behavior
June 19, 2002 

In an unprecedented report, the AMA House of Delegates this week called on physicians to help reduce bullying behavior among children by being heedful for signs that young patients are being bullied and working with parents, teachers and others to solve the problem. 

The delegates adopted a report by the AMA's Council on Scientific Affairs (CSA) that reviewed bullying among U.S. children and adolescents. Some of the recommendations in the CSA report include: that the AMA recognize bullying as a complex and abusive behavior with potentially serious social and mental health consequences; that the AMA work with appropriate federal agencies, medical societies, mental health organizations, schools and youth organizations in a national campaign to change attitudes about bullying; and that the AMA urge parents and caretakers to be involved in children's school and other activities. 

"Without intervention, bullying can lead to serious academic, social, emotional and legal problems," the CSA report states. "Studies of successful anti-bullying programs are scarce in the U.S. but . adopting a comprehensive approach in schools can change student behaviors and attitudes and increase adults' willingness to intervene."   The report says physicians should ask about bullying when young patients have unexplained psychosomatic and behavioral symptoms, and when patients express thoughts of suicide or self-harm, or begin using tobacco, alcohol or other drugs. 

"It is crucial that physicians take a leadership role in helping their young patients deal with this problem," said AMA Trustee Ronald Davis, MD. "Too many children are being terrorized at school or on the playground and remaining silent about it." 


AMA Report -
MA - AMA calls on physicians to help reduce bullying

Report finds young patients often have no one to confide in when they are being bullied
For immediate release - June 19, 2002 

CHICAGO - The American MediCal Association House of Delegates called on physicians today to help reduce bullying behavior among children by being vigilant for signs that young patients are being bullied and working with parents, teachers and others to solve the problem. 

The delegates adopted a report by the AMA's Council on Scientific Affairs that reviewed bullying among U.S. children and adolescents. It found that bullies represent 7 to 15 percent of sampled school-age populations and victims represent about 10 percent. Between 2 and 10 percent of students are both bullies and victims. In elementary schools, more boys than girls are involved in bullying; however, the gender difference decreases in junior high and high school, and social bullying among girls - manipulation done to harm acceptance into a group - becomes harder to detect. 

"Without intervention, bullying can lead to serious academic, social, emotional and legal problems," the CSA report states. "Studies of successful anti-bullying programs are scarce in the United States but . adopting a comprehensive approach in schools can change student behaviors and attitudes and increase adults' willingness to intervene." 

The report defined bullying as behavior that involves a pattern of repeated aggression, deliberate intent to harm or disturb a victim despite apparent victim distress and a real or perceived imbalance of power (e.g., due to age, strength, size) with the more powerful child or group attacking a physically or psychologically vulnerable victim.

Some of the recommendations in the CSA report include: 

  • The AMA recognize bullying as a complex and abusive behavior with potentially serious social and mental health consequences;
  • The AMA work with appropriate federal agencies, medical societies, mental health organizations, schools, youth organizations and others ina national campaign to change attitudes about bullying;
  • The AMA advocate federal support to implement programs that effectively prevent or reduce bullying; develop clinical tools for identifying and treating patients traumatized by bullying; and uncover biological and environmental causes of aggressive and violent behavior;
  • Physicians should enhance their awareness of the social and mental health consequences of bullying; be vigilant for signs of bullying in young patients; screen for psychiatric symptoms in at-risk patients; counsel affected patients and their families; and advocate for programs to treat perpetrators and victims of bullying;
  • The AMA urge parents and caretakers to be involved in children's school and other activities. Parents and caretakers also should be encouraged to build supportive home environments, as well as teach children how to interact socially, resolve conflicts, deal with frustration and cope with anger and stress.
The report notes that bullying often is hidden from adults who might intervene because children, afraid that bullies will intensify the abuse, often remain silent. Children need to be educated about the importance of reporting bullying, and parents, teachers and health care professionals need to become better at identifying current or potential victims. The report says physicians should ask about bullying when young patients have unexplained psychosomatic and behavioral symptoms, and when patients express thoughts of suicide or self-harm , or begin using tobacco, alcohol or other drugs. 

"It is crucial that physicians take a leadership role in helping their young patients deal with this problem," said AMA Trustee Ronald Davis, MD, a public health physician in East Lansing, Mich.

"Too many children are being terrorized at school or on the playground and remaining silent about it."
The CSA report was based on extracted and analyzed data published from 1985 to 2002 in several databases, journal articles, reports and textbooks. Additional information was gleaned from federal agencies, medical specialty societies, mental health and other professional organizations, and recognized researchers in the field. 

For more information or a copy of the CSA report, please contact: 

Brian Pace 
AMA Media Relations
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