Protective parents increase the risk of bullying

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The Independent Online

Control freak parents, ones who are over-protective or neglectful increase the risk of their children being bullied, a study of teenagers shows. Young people who were victims of bullying were more likely to complain of over-protective parents who "treat me like a baby," parents who "take no notice of me", or who "try to control everything I do".

Control freak parents, ones who are over-protective or neglectful increase the risk of their children being bullied, a study of teenagers shows. Young people who were victims of bullying were more likely to complain of over-protective parents who "treat me like a baby," parents who "take no notice of me", or who "try to control everything I do".

The report, compiled from anonymous interviews with 7,000 teenagers aged 13 to 19, found more than half of all young people had been bullied. More than one in 10 suffered severe bullying, including physical violence.

The research, published tomorrow by Young Voice, a charity that aims to make young people's views heard, was done by the Centre for Research into Parenting and Children at Oxford University.

Called Bullying in Britain - Testimonies from Teenagers, the report says young people think bullying is getting worse, they think school anti-bullying policies ineffective, and victims often feel teachers are unable to help.

One bullied boy of 14 said: "I felt the whole world was crushing me, there was nowhere to go away from this torture." A boy of 15 from Liverpool said: "I've told the teacher lots of times. Teachers have better things to do - they don't wanna know." Only half of the teenagers surveyed thought their schools had anti-bullying strategies, and of those less than a half were regarded as successful.

Bullying was widespread in and out of school, with more than two-thirds of severely bullied boys saying they were picked on outside the classroom. Badly bullied boys were more than five times as likely to be depressed as non-victims, six out of 10 had suicidal thoughts and one in five had attempted suicide. The same pattern was found in girls, with one in four of those who had suffered violent bullying having made a suicide attempt.

Most young people said schoolwork was their main worry, yet about a quarter said bullying was the biggest pressure in their lives. They felt they had to "cope with problems alone" or "put on a tough front" to cope.

The report found a positive style of parenting, which engendered independent thought and initiative in children, had an important impact on whether youngsters were bullied.

Severely bullied children were far more likely to say their parents "don't like me to make my own decisions" or "try to control everything I do" or "don't take any notice of me".

Badly bullied boys were more likely to be living with one parent and a step-parent, with their father away from home. Badly bullied girls were more likely to be living with a "woman who is not my mum" and feel more anxious about their home environment.

Aggressive boys and girls who bullied others often said their parents did not treat everyone in the family equally, fought a lot between themselves and did not win their children's respect.

They came from all backgrounds, but frequently said they experienced violence, physical punishment or conflict at home and were more likely to believe "you have to be tough to survive".

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