PURPOSE OF THE STUDY.
This study evaluated rates of bullying in food-allergic children and further investigated the type of harassment as well as effects on quality of life and distress.
A total of 251 patient–parent pairs were recruited at the Jaffe Food Allergy Institute at Mount Sinai (New York, NY) from April 2011 to November 2011. Patients were between the ages of 8 and 17 years and had an established diagnosis of food allergy.
Parents and children were surveyed by using the Revised Olweus Bully/Victim Questionnaire with additional questions specifically addressing bullying about food allergy. Children and parents were also given validated questionnaires on anxiety and food allergy–related quality of life.
Slightly more than 45% of children and 36% of parents reported bullying for any reason, which is higher than that previously reported in the general population (17%–35%). Food allergy–related bullying was reported by 31.5% of children and 24.7% of parents. More than one-half the time, parents were unaware of child-reported bullying. The most common form of bullying was teasing (42%), followed by waving food near the child (30%); 15% of children reported being threatened. Parents were most often the person children notified when bullied (71% of children). Greater anxiety was noted in the children who were bullied, with decreased quality of life compared with children with no history of being bullied. However, children’s quality of life was significantly improved when parents were aware of bullying. Parental distress and quality of life were worse with knowledge of bullying of any type.
The results of this study demonstrate that bullying is common in food-allergic children and that parents are often unaware of the bullying. Bullying is associated with increased distress and decreased quality of life in both children and parents. However, quality of life in children was better when parents were aware of bullying.
This study confirms the perception that children with food allergy are often victims of bullying and that this finding correlates with increased anxiety and decreased quality of life. An attempt should be made at clinical visits to investigate whether the child is being subjected to bullying. Given that quality of life was improved when parents were aware of bullying, parents should also be encouraged to initiate conversations about bullying with their children.
- Copyright © 2013 by the American Academy of Pediatrics