Nearly 1 in 5 fifth-graders has received violent injuries, the majority delivered by guns or knives, according to recently published research by The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) School of Public Health.
The study, published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, analyzed data from 4,300 children when they were in fifth, seventh, and 10th grades at public schools in districts in and around cities in three U.S. communities: Houston, Los Angeles County, and Birmingham, Alabama. The children were questioned over time to see whether the number and type of injury changed.
The likelihood of injury increased as children became older, with 1 in 3 high school-age children sustaining a gunshot, stabbing wound, or assault-related injury needing medical attention.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which funded the research, bullying is common in high schools nationwide. These findings shed new light on the type of injuries occurring among children and who is most affected – bullies or victims of bullying.
“The biggest surprise was the sheer scale of intentional violent injuries children are suffering, even at elementary school age. It was also unexpected to discover how it’s not bullying victims, but bullies themselves who are most likely to get seriously hurt,” said first author Dr. Katelyn Jetelina. “This suggests the act of bullying may not necessarily be violent enough for victims to sustain serious injuries, and that bullies may be involved in other harmful behaviors.” Dr. Jetelina is an assistant professor of epidemiology, human genetics, and environmental sciences at UTHealth School of Public Health in Dallas.
[Photo: Dr. Katelyn Jetelina]
“It’s a first-of-its-kind look at how the injuries are sustained among school-age children and whether these are different for repeat bullying victims and repeat perpetrators,” Jetelina said. “The interviews were conducted privately to improve reliability, but underreporting is still a potential issue, so the problem could be even worse.”
Data were obtained from Healthy Passages, a study of children and their primary caregivers followed from fifth through 10th grade between 2004 and 2011. That study’s principal investigators were Dr. Susan Tortolero Emery, of UTHealth School of Public Health; Dr. Susan Davies, of The University of Alabama at Birmingham Center for the Study of Community Health; and Dr. Mark Schuster, of Kaiser Permanente School of Medicine, who is also senior author of this paper.