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[IPp] Kids With Diabetes Often Bullied


Kids With Diabetes Often Bullied
Saturday, December 11, 2004
By Miranda Hitti


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 Children with type 1 diabetes (search) and other hormonal disorders (search)
are often bullied by other kids. And this bullying could lead kids to adopt
unhealthy behaviors, a researcher says.

 "If you know kids may tease you because you have to go to the bathroom to check
your blood sugar or you can't eat some foods, you might begin avoiding those
things," Eric Storch, PhD, assistant professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at
University of Florida's College of Medicine, says in a news release. "The idea
behind it starts with social fears."

 Storch and colleagues studied almost 100 children with various hormonal
disorders including type 1 diabetes, thyroid problems, short stature, male
breast development, and early or delayed puberty.

 The endocrine system oversees the production of hormones, which affect the
entire body. Some endocrine problems are obvious, like short stature. Others
arent immediately visible. For instance, someone couldnt spot a child with
type 1 diabetes unless they saw them checking their blood sugar, injecting
insulin, or wearing an insulin pump.

 The kids studied were about 13 years old on average. During outpatient visits
to the University of Floridas pediatric endocrinology clinic, they completed
written surveys about bullying, depression, social anxiety, and loneliness.
Their parents also filled out questionnaires about their childrens self-esteem
and behavior.

 Nearly a third of the kids said they had been bullied in the last month. For
many, bullying was accompanied by hurtful psychological experiences. Almost 20
percent said they feared social situations, nearly 8 percent showed signs of
depression, and about 6 percent said they were lonely.

 Their parents also noticed problems. Thirteen percent of parents and guardians
noted signs of poor self-esteem in their kids, and 9 percent said the children
misbehaved significantly.

 "One of the things I often hear is, 'Everyone goes through this, why make a big
deal of it?' I don't argue that this happens," Storch says. "The point is if
it's chronic bullying, it's often distressing."

 Which comes first: bullying or mental and emotional problems? Its hard to say.
Certainly, bullying is a well-known hazard for all kids, regardless of health
status. But the stress of having a chronic medical condition might make some
children with endocrine problems more vulnerable to bullies.

 Of course, bullies dont limit themselves to kids with endocrine problems. Its
estimated that a fifth of all children are regularly exposed to bullying, say
the researchers. Sometimes, the torment is physical  hitting, pushing,
threatening, or insulting. Bullying can also be relational, such as ignoring,
shunning, or spreading rumors.

Some children in the study suffered less than others.

 Those with obvious symptoms  such as male breast development, early or late
puberty, or short stature  had an easier time handling bullying. Their peers
and teachers might protect and help them, say the researchers. Or other
psychological factors may be at work.

 The fallout of bullying and related problems can be intense. By avoiding their
peers out of fear, kids could miss important educational and social experiences.
Others might skip their medications to blend in with the crowd, which could have
dangerous health consequences.

 Parents, teachers, and health care professionals should take bullying seriously
and learn how to help kids cope, say the researchers. Their study appears in the
December issue of The Journal of Pediatrics.

By Miranda Hitti, reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD

Rachel - email @ redacted
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