Getting teased at school can be especially damaging to kids with endocrine problems, and may cause them to put their health at risk, according to new study findings.
U.S. investigators found that bullied children with endocrine problems — who suffer from conditions ranging from type 1 diabetes to delayed puberty — were more likely to show symptoms of psychological distress. Unfortunately, these kids may also respond to bullying by stopping treatment, study author Dr. Eric A. Storch told Reuters Health. He said that children who are teased because of their diabetes, for instance, may try to hide all signs of their condition — stop going to the nurse to check their blood sugar and get insulin shots, or following a special diet, as examples. “If they’re getting picked on about any of these things, do they then hesitate to engage in them?” asked Storch, who is based at the University of Florida in Gainesville. It is important for parents to ask children with endocrine problems if they are being bullied, and try to counteract those teasing messages, which previous research has shown is possible, Storch said in an interview. For instance, parents can role play with their kids to help them practice other ways of responding to bullying than acting hurt, which often eggs on their attacker, Storch said. According to the article, appearing in the Journal of Pediatrics, approximately 1 in 5 school-aged children are regularly tormented. Bullying may be overt — hitting or threatening — or subtler, such as ignoring or spreading rumors about a child. To investigate the effect of bullying on kids with endocrine problems, Storch and his colleagues interviewed 93 children diagnosed with different endocrine disorders, including type 1 diabetes, underactive thyroid, short stature, gynecomastia (abnormally enlarged male breasts), early puberty and delayed puberty. They found that kids who were bullied were more likely to show symptoms of depression, be anxious around others, feel lonely, and exhibit behavior problems such as acting out. Storch explained that kids with endocrine problems may face additional problems at school, since some of those problems — including short stature and gynecomastia — are immediately obvious to others. “They have the challenge of being a kid and having something that makes you different,” he said. However, he and his colleagues found that kids with less obvious disorders like type 1 diabetes and low thyroid function actually appeared to struggle more with bullying, reporting more symptoms of depression as a result. He noted that kids with overt differences may get more support from teachers and students, while those without observable conditions may need more chronic medical care, which could make their life more difficult, in general. (Source: The Journal of Pediatrics: Reuters Health: Alison McCook: December 2004.)