Background: While extensive research has been conducted on bullying and victimization in western countries, research is lacking in low- and middle-income settings. This study focused on bullying victimization in Peru. It explored the relationship between the caregiver’s perception of child victimization and the child’s view of selected negative experiences occurring with other children their age. Also, the study examined the association between victimization and adolescent health risk behaviors.
Methods: This study used data from 675 children participating in the Peru cohort of the Young Lives study. Children and caregivers were interviewed in 2002 when children were 8 years of age and again in 2009 when children were 15 years of age. Measures of victimization included perceptions from children and caregivers while measures of health risk behaviors included cigarette smoking, alcohol drinking, and sexual relations among adolescents.
Results: Caregivers identified 85 (12.6%) children bullied at ages 8 and 15, 235 (34.8%) bullied at age 8 only, 61 (9.0%) bullied at age 15 only, and 294 (43.6%) not bullied at either age. Children who were bullied at both ages compared with all other children were 1.58 (95% CI 1.00-2.50) times more likely to smoke cigarettes, 1.57 (1.04-2.38) times more likely to drink alcohol, and 2.17 (1.41-3.33) times more likely to have ever had a sexual relationship, after adjusting for gender. The caregiver’s assessment of child victimization was significantly associated with child reported bullying from other children their age. Child reported victimization was significantly associated with increased risky behaviors in some cases.
Conclusion: Long-term victimization from bullying is more strongly associated than less frequent victimization with increased risk of cigarette smoking, alcohol drinking, and sexual relations at age 15. Hence, programs focused on helping children learn how to mitigate and prevent bullying consistently over time may also help reduce risky adolescent health behaviors such as smoking, alcohol consumption, and sexual activity.
Crookston, B.T.; Merrill, R.M.; Hedges, S.; Lister, C.; West, J.H.; Hall, P.C. Victimization of Peruvian adolescents and health risk behaviors: Young Lives cohort. BMC Public Health (2014) 14 (1) 85. [DOI: 10.1186/1471-2458-14-85]