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J Emerg Med. 2013 Mar;44(3):605-10. doi: 10.1016/j.jemermed.2012.07.053. Epub 2012 Sep 11.

Victims of bullying in the emergency department with behavioral issues.

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  • 1Department of Emergency Medicine, Lincoln Medical & Mental Health Center, Bronx, New York, USA.



Bullying has become one of the most significant school problems experienced by our children. Victims of bullying are prone to a variety of psychological and behavioral symptoms. We noted that many children referred to the Emergency Department (ED) with behavioral symptoms provided a history of bullying.


To measure the prevalence of bullying in children referred to the ED for behavioral symptoms and to determine its association with psychiatric disorders.


A retrospective cohort study was conducted in an urban hospital, identifying children from 8 to 19 years of age who presented to the ED with behavioral symptoms. We reviewed the ED psychiatry notes to retrieve the report indicating whether these children were bullied and had previous psychiatric diagnoses. These children were classified into bullied and non-bullied groups.


Over the study period, 591 children visited the ED with behavioral issues. Out of 591, 143 (24%) children reported bullying. More boys (100) than girls (43) reported bullying (p = 0.034). The mean age of children in the bullied group was 10.6 years (95% confidence interval 10.1-11.2). One hundred eleven (77.6%) children in the bullied group had a prior psychiatric diagnosis. Children in the bullied group were hospitalized significantly less than children in the non-bullied group (10/143 [7%] vs. 80/368 [18%]; p = 0.002).


The prevalence of bullying among the ED children with behavioral symptoms is substantial. Every fourth child with behavioral symptoms reported bullying. Four in five children who reported bullying had a prior diagnosis of "disorder of behavior."

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