Bullying: Premature babies may be more likely to be bullied

Researchers at McMaster University's Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine looked at ELBW babies were 2.2 pounds or less and born between 1977 and 1982 in Ontario. They were then interviewed at age 8, 22 to 26 and 29 to 36 and compared to babies born at normal birthweight of 5.5 pounds or more who were born in the same tie span and interviewed at the same interval. Though bullying occurs in up to one-third of children world-wide, they found that extremely low birth weight (ELBW) babies were more likely to be bullied as children, which increased their risk of developing such issues as anxiety, antisocial behaviors, ADHD and/or depression as adults.

"Being bullied has a significant and lasting impact for those preemies, even into their 30s," said Kimberly Day, lead author of the study and Lawson Postdoctoral Fellow at the Offord Centre for Child Studies at McMaster, in a news release. "This has important implications for parents, teachers, and clinicians who need to be aware of the long-term effects of peer victimization on mental health. They need to watch out for bullying and intervene when possible."

Findings revealed that ELBW babies who were bullied were twice as likely to develop mental health problems when compared to normal-weight babies were also bullied. Furthermore, by the time the children had reached their 30s, the ELBW adults who were bullied as children were up to 3 times more likely to have developed anxiety disorders such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, social phobia and panic disorder. Rates were even higher for those bullied more frequently.

"This is the first study to fully illustrate the profound and long-lasting effects of bullying on the mental health of preterm survivors," said Dr. Ryan Van Lieshout, the senior author of the study and an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioural neurosciences at McMaster. "Their risk for anxiety disorders is especially high, particularly among those who are exposed to bullying on a regular basis."