Tackle bullying with healthier peer relations

By Samuel Kutty — MUSCAT: April 8 – Getting teased or mercilessly mocked or attacked is widely prevalent among students in the Sultanate. In a study on injury rates and associated exposures, and risk behaviors in the Sultanate by Global School-based Student Health Survey (GSHS), 38.4 per cent of the students reported being bullied. While, 38.8 per cent reported being physically attacked, 47.6 per cent reported being involved in physical fights. In total 34 per cent of the students have at least one injury that caused at least one full day of absence from usual activities or required medical treatment. “More than half of the bullied students reported that the most frequent type of peer victimization they experienced was being made fun of with sexual jokes, comments, or gestures.
“Sexual bullying was the most common type of bullying reported by girls and boys”, the report says quoting figures from the survey.
In Oman, both being physically attacked and participating in a physical attack were associated with increased risk of injury.
This means that both aggressors (those who were in a fight) and victims (those who were attacked) who were involved in interpersonal violence had increased injury rates, even though only about 10 per cent of injuries in the Oman GSHS were attributed to fights and attacks. “Promoting healthier peer relationships may help to reduce injuries in this age group as well as reducing the harmful effects of bullying”, the report advises. The study used complex samples analysis to examine nationally-representative data from 1,606 students in grades eight, nine, and 10.“The most common injury type reported was a broken bone or dislocated joint from falling”, points out the study which appeared in the March issue of Oman Medical Journal.
Both injured boys and girls faced more bullying, fights, and attacks than their non-injured classmates, even though only 9.6 per cent of injured students reported that their most serious injury in the past year was the result of an assault, and students reporting assaults did not have significantly higher odds of exposure to these types of peer violence.
The report, prepared by Richard P. Peyton, Shamika Ranasinghe and Kathryn H Jacobsen of Department of Global and Community Health, George Mason University, Virginia, was received by the Medical Council  in May 2016 and accepted in October 2016. All the items used in the survey were selected from a standardized and validated GSHS question bank and translated from English to Arabic.
Bully victimization rates did not differ by sex or age, but they were significantly different for injured and non-injured students (49 per cent  vs 28.4 per cent), even though most of the types of bullying reported were not ones that would directly cause physical injury. Injured bullied boys and girls reported less frequent rates of sexual bullying than their non-injured bullied classmates.
Bullied boys whose most common form of victimization experienced was being hit, kicked, pushed, shoved around, or locked indoors were significantly more likely than other victims of bullies to report having a serious injury.
“Clinicians, counselors, other healthcare professionals, teachers and school administrators, parents, religious and cultural leaders, and other adults can help promote healthy relationships among students and can help reduce injuries by enforcing a zero-tolerance approach to fighting and bullying,” the report concludes.