Children with food allergies more likely to become victims of bullying

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    Children with food allergies are targeted by bullies in the same manner as are children with disabilities (Shutterstock photo)

    Children who are overweight or have food allergies are more likely to be victims of bullying, indicate two new studies in a report from Reuters.

    According to the research, children who were victims of bullying were also more likely to have an overall worse quality of life when compared to children who weren’t victimized. The studies support previous research noting the many negative side effects bullying can have on children.

    “There has been a shift and people are more and more recognizing that bullying has real consequences, it’s not just something to be making jokes about,” said Dr. Mark Schuster, chief of general pediatrics at Boston Children’s Hospital and a professor at Harvard Medical School, told Reuters.

    Schuster wrote a commentary on the findings which were published in the journal Pediatrics. Among the results, researchers found 45 percent of study participants reported being bullied for any reason, while 32 percent reported being bullied specifically for their food allergy.

    Bullying and food allergies

    According to the study authors, food allergy bullying is similar to any disability bullying.

    “A food allergy is a vulnerability that can be very easily exploited, so of course it will be exploited,” explained to Reuters Dr. Eyal Shemesh from the Mount Sinai Medical Center and one of the study leaders.


    Talking with children about bullying is an important step in the lessening emotional damage (Shutterstock photo)

    The findings may be more prevalent among minority children and those from low-income families, indicated experts, as the test group consisted of non-Hispanic white, well-off participants — a group considered less likely to be bullied.

    In addition to food allergies, results from one of the studies indicated obesity was another common cause of childhood bullying. A Yale University team found the heaviest children in the study had close to a 100 percent chance of being bullied, and more than half of overweight children were taunted about their weight online, through text messages, or through email.

    Bullying can have serious negative, long-term physical, mental and emotional effects on children. Childhood bullying has been linked to high rates of depression, social anxiety, pathological perfectionism, and neuroticism in adulthood. While the severity of emotional pain felt with childhood bullying does appear to decrease over time, experts indicate the memories can rarely be forgotten.

    For parents, conversation is an important step in preventing childhood bullying. Schuster told Reuters, “Parents whose kids have a food allergy should really be aware that their kids have the kind of characteristic that often leads to being bullied. They should be working with the school to handle the food allergy in a way that isn’t going to make it more likely that their kids will be bullied – and they need to be attuned to their kids.”

    Due to the severe consequences of childhood bullying, experts advise it should never be ignored. Children who have the support of their parents may not see themselves as victims, and therefore may have an easier transition into adulthood; however, in the most severe cases of bullying, some people never fully recover.


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