Low Birth Weight May Result In Bullying

A new study is claiming that babies born with low birth weight are more likely to be bullied as kids

My children were both average-sized babies. My daughter was 7lbs, and my son 7 lbs 12oz. According to new research that makes my children less likely to be bullied and, if bullied, less likely to be negatively impacted by it.

A recent study in the journal Parenting has revealed that there is heightened risk of bullying in low birth weight babies. As if having a low birth weight baby isn’t stressful enough in the early days of life, now parents of tiny babies need to worry about what it can mean socially and mentally long-term.

Anyone would be negatively affected by being bullied, but according to the study, the smaller the small baby, the more negatively affected they will be.

“While bullying has detrimental, long-term effects on every child, adults who were extremely low birth weight babies may suffer more because of all the hardships they have to overcome throughout their lives,” lead study author Kimberly Day, a researcher at the Offord Centre for Child Studies at McMaster University in Hamilton told Reuters.  

It’s not just the risk of bullying that increases in low birth weight babies, say the researchers. It’s how they respond to it as well.

“The same differences that make them more sensitive to the effects of bullying may also put them at greater risk for experiencing bullying,” Day said.

The study was based on the results of surveying adults with psychiatric disorders at 26 and then at 36 years old and having them rate their recollection of the bullying they endured. While more than half of the only 275 participants in the study dropped out before the 36 year check in, researchers determined that there is in fact a positive correlation between low birth weight and long-term impact of bullying.

“By the age of 26, researchers found that for each one-point increase in the victimization score, the adults who were too small at birth had 67 percent higher odds of depression, 36 per cent greater likelihood of anxiety, 92 percent increased risk for antisocial behaviour and a 39 percent higher chance of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder,” Reuters reported.

The research didn’t consider possible explanations for this correlation, but Dr. Matthew Davis, a pediatrics researcher and deputy director of the Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation at the University of Michigan, told Reuters that perception of childhood bullying by low birth weight children and medical challenges in early life impacting long-term learning and socialization could be possible reasons.

What does this mean for parents of babies with low birth weight? They can hardly control what their babies weigh at birth, Davis says parents of tiny babies should be extra conscious of red flags.

“Being a victim of bullying behaviour is bad for children’s health, period,” he added. “What this study reminds us is that childhood bullying can have long-term effects on mental health, well into adulthood—especially for individuals who were born at extremely low birth weight.”

It is a fairly good rule of thumb no matter your child’s birth weight to be hyper vigilant about instances of and reactions to bullying. The researchers point out that we might see a reduction in this correlation in the next generation as neonatal care has improved since the subjects of the study were born 20+ years ago. But since that time we have seen the advent of social media which has blown open the doors of opportunity for bullies.

It’s really not birth weight that is the ultimate health concern when it comes to effects of bullying. It’s being remiss in understanding that people, any people, who are bullied can suffer long term impacts on their psychological well-being.

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