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New Link Between Family Violence and Bullying Should Spark Discussion

The ever-present topic of bullying took a new twist when a study was published last week possibly linking family violence to bullying.

Is the subject of bullying coming up in your family discussions?

Just because it may not happen to your child does not mean that you shouldn't take a moment to talk to him or her about bullying. Last week's revelation that 16 percent of Massachusetts' high school students, and a quarter of middle schoolers surveyed said they have been bullied, according to a study published by the Boston Globe and other media outlets, gave me pause to have a chat about it.

It is especially timely because for the first time, health officials have drawn a link between family violence and bullying. Both bullying perpetrators and victims were five times more likely to report they had been hurt physically by a family member.

With these new findings, Massachusetts becomes the first state to conduct a bullying survey which links its root causes to family dynamics. In our state, 31 percent of high schoolers who either did the bullying, or were bullied, say they had witnessed family violence during the past 12 months.

As disturbing as the findings are, educators and family counseling experts are not surprised. These new findings come a year after Gov. Deval Patrick signed a law that requires schools to adopt clear procedures for reporting and investigating cases of bullying. In addition, each school district, including Wellesley, will have to devise methods for preventing retaliation against those who report problems.

Since there are no easy answers to stop bullying, talking about it at home to raise awareness is key for parents and students. Even if you think your kids have not been bullied, it's possible they have been victims of subtle bullying behavior at one time or another.

In your discussions, don't leave the topic of cyber-bullying out. Experts agree that type of bullying usually originates from home. So, if you have a child on a social network, here's a reminder to discuss cyber-bullying and its origins too.

As a mom, I want the  children in my life to know how I feel about violence in the home, that it's abhorrent, illegal and morally wrong. Instead of throwing up our hands in frustration about the complexities of bullying, I want to do something constructive. So I believe that it's important to let children know about this link between bullying and family violence. That way, if they see something, they'll "say something" about violence in the home of a friend or relative.

In fact, now that the link has been made, I plan to discuss bullying and its suspected origins. If we draw the connection for our kids, it's just one more way we parents might be providing armor for our children against bullies. The best form of prevention is educating and informing our youngsters.

Kari April 27, 2011 at 11:03 AM
This was VERY interesting to me. I think I knew there was a connection but had not seen this research. I believe that this connection should be a part of the Bullying Prevention Curriculum that we offer at our schools. Thanks Debi!

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