Study: Negative Parenting Linked with Kids Being Bullied

“Children who have overprotective parents are more likely to be bullied by their peers,” BBC News explains.

The news correctly presents the findings of a major study on the effects of parenting on a child’s risk of being bullied, but it focuses on the weakest finding of the research.

The study did suggest that overprotective parents may increase a child’s risk of being bullied by their peers. However, the study also found that children with neglectful or abusive parents had an even greater increased risk of being bullied.

The headlines could also have focused on the more positive results – researchers found that children brought up in an emotionally warm environment with clearly defined rules about right and wrong were less likely to be bullied. This finding is interesting given the recent news about the potentially positive effects of ‘tough-love’ parenting.

mother yelling at childrenFurther studies into the association between parenting and a child’s chance of being bullied could shed additional light on the importance of a parent’s behaviour. While the findings of this study are interesting, it is not easy to see how it could be used to persuade people to change their parenting styles for the better.

Worried that your child is being bullied?

Signs that your child may be being bullied include:

  • Coming home with damaged or missing clothes, without money they should have or with scratches and bruises.
  • Having trouble with homework for no apparent reason.
  • Using a different route between home and school.
  • Feeling irritable, easily upset or particularly emotional.

If you are concerned, you should talk both to your child and to their school. If this fails to resolve the problem, there are several organisations that may be of assistance.

Read more advice for parents who are worried their child is being bullied.

Where did the story come from?

The study was carried out by researchers from the University of Warwick and Kingston University London and was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and the Qatar National Research Fund.

The study was published in the peer-reviewed medical journal Child Abuse and Neglect.

Media coverage of this review largely focused on one of eight studied parenting styles (overprotection or “mollycoddling”). While the Daily Mail at least mentioned the larger detrimental effects of other parenting styles, some outlets (including the BBC News and the Daily Express) focused solely on the impact of overprotective parents.

The fact that the study found that a more positive parenting style – combining a mixture of emotional warmth and “firm but fair” rules – was linked with reduced chance of being bullied was not highlighted in the reporting of the study.

What kind of research was this?

The study was a combination of a systematic review and meta-analysis. It examined the relationship between parenting styles, parent-child relationships and bullying.

Researchers believe that family experiences and parenting style before children start school can influence the child’s capacity to adapt and cope at school. This can influence their relationships with schoolmates, making a child less, or more, vulnerable to bullying from their peers.

The researchers pooled the results from both prospective cohort studies and cross-sectional studies. This was to investigate the association between parenting behaviour and victimisation, and from this to identify parenting styles and family relationships that may increase the risk of victimisation.

What did the research involve?

The researchers searched the available literature for cohort and cross-sectional studies of the association between parenting behaviour and peer victimisation or bullying. They included studies that were published between 1970 and 2012 and provided a measure of relational, physical, verbal or cyberbullying.

The researchers identified parenting variables that they classified into positive and negative parenting behaviours.

The positive parenting behaviours were:

  • Authoritative parenting (highly demanding, but also highly responsive parents)
  • Parent-child communication
  • Parental involvement and support
  • Supervision
  • Warmth and affection

The negative parenting behaviours were:

  • Abuse or neglect
  • Maladaptive parenting (high levels of hostility, hitting and shouting)
  • Overprotection (or mollycoddling, as the media termed it)

The researchers included studies that recorded two types of child outcomes – victims and those who were both bullies and victims (bully/victims). They pooled the results of identified studies for each of these parenting styles to determine whether there were specific types of parenting behaviour that were associated with either the risk of being bullied or becoming a bully/victim.

The size of the effect of parenting on a child’s risk of being bullied or becoming a bully/victim was estimated using a statistical scale called ‘Hedge’s g’. This scale is widely used to assess the impact of different types of effect or effect size. For example:

  • A small effect would be a Hedge’s g measurement of 0.20
  • A medium effect would be a Hedge’s g measurement of 0.50
  • A large effect would be a Hedge’s g measurement of 0.80

A negative effect indicates a lower likelihood of victims of bullying having parents with that particular behaviour or style compared with non-victims.

What were the basic results?

The researchers identified 70 cohort and cross-sectional studies that met the inclusion criteria. These studies included 208,778 children and young people aged between 4 and 25 years. The researchers found that different parenting styles were associated with varying risk of being bullied or becoming a bully/victim.

Both victims and bully/victims were more likely to be exposed to negative parenting behaviour including abuse and neglect as well as maladaptive and overprotective parenting (effect size 0.26, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.16 to 0.37). When examining the types of negative parenting styles, the researchers found that all had a significant association with victimisation, including:

  • Abusive or neglectful parents (effect size 0.31, 95% CI 0.18 to 0.44)
  • Maladaptive parenting (effect size 0.27, 95 CI 0.15 to 0.40)
  • Overprotective parents (effect size 0.10, 95% CI 0.03 to 0.17)

Conversely, overall, positive parenting behaviour had a small but significant effect, reducing the likelihood of the child being bullied or becoming a bully/victim (effect size -0.19, 95% CI -0.23 to -0.15). All five of their selected styles were associated with lower likelihood of being bullied:

  • Authoritative parents (effect size -0.19, 95% CI -0.28 to -0.11)
  • Good parent-child communication (effect size -0.12, 95% CI -0.20 to -0.05)
  • Involved and supportive parents (effect size -0.22, 95% CI -0.29 to -0.15)
  • Parents providing supervision (effect size -0.16, 95% CI -0.21 to -0.12)
  • Warm and affectionate parents (effect size -0.22, 95% CI -0.30 to -0.14)

For victims, the effects were generally small to moderate for positive parenting styles (effect size -0.12 to -22) and negative parenting styles (effect size 0.10 to 0.31). For bully/victims the effects were generally moderate for positive parenting styles (-0.17 to -0.42) and negative parenting styles (0.13 to 0.68).

How did the researchers interpret the results?

The researchers concluded that negative parenting styles are associated with “small to moderate effects on victim status at school” and that “intervention programs against bullying should extend their focus beyond schools to include families and start before children enter school“.


This research suggests that certain parenting styles may protect children against bullying risk. These include:

  • Being authoritative
  • Being involved and supportive
  • Being warm and affectionate
  • Having good communication with your child
  • Providing appropriate supervision

On the other hand, negative parenting styles were linked with an increased likelihood of being bullied. The researchers defined negative parenting styles as both “caring too much” or being overprotective and “not caring enough” or being neglectful.

Most of the headlines state that ‘mollycoddling’ your children increases their risk of being bullied. While these headlines are supported by this research, overprotective parenting styles were in fact associated with the smallest effect on bullying risk of the eight styles investigated.

The researchers point out that the other two negative parenting styles (abuse and neglect, and maladaptive parenting) were far more likely to increase the risk of a child being bullied.

The review assessed the effects of these parenting behaviours on the likelihood of the child both being a victim of bullying as well as bullying others. Generally, the relationships between parenting and the child bullying others were stronger than those between parenting and victimisation alone. Sadly, this more important finding was largely ignored by the media.

The researchers suggest that, “intervention programs that target children who are exposed to harsh or abusive parenting, may prevent peer victimization”. They also conclude that “parental training programs may be necessary to strengthen supportive involvement and warm and affectionate parenting to improve family relationships and prevent or reduce victimization by peers”.

Read more advice and information about bullying.

Analysis by Bazian. Edited by NHS Choices. Follow Behind the Headlines on Twitter.


“Children who have overprotective parents are more likely to be bullied by their peers,” BBC News explains. The news correctly presents the findings of a major study on the effects of parenting on a child’s risk of being bullied, but it focuses only on the weaker findings.

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Child Health & Safety News Roundup: 09-21-2015 to 09-27-2015

twitter thumbWelcome to Pediatric Safety’s weekly “Child Health & Safety News Roundup”- a recap of the past week’s child health and safety news headlines from around the world. Each day we use Twitter and Facebook to communicate relevant and timely health and safety information to the parents, medical professionals and other caregivers who follow us. Occasionally we may miss something, but we think overall we’re doing a pretty good job of keeping you informed. But for our friends and colleagues not on Twitter or FB (or who are but may have missed something), we offer you a recap of the past week’s top 12 events & stories.

PedSafe Child Health & Safety Headline of the Week:
3 phone apps to help keep your kids safe: Jeff Rossen demonstrates

Halloween Dental Safety: Have Your Candy and Eat It Too

Kids Halloween CandyThe changing temperatures and shorter days can only mean one thing – fall is here! Halloween is right around the corner, and although candy consumption is nearly unavoidable, we’re here to make it less scary for you, your children and your dentist.

Treats and Tricks

  • Limit availability: When trick or treating is over and the costumes come off, sit down with your children and help them sort their candy. Let them choose 10-15 of their favorite sugary goods and dispose of the rest. Many local organizations have programs that allow you to donate your leftover Halloween candy to troops overseas. Other options for donation would be local nursing homes, food pantries, children’s hospitals, veteran’s home or women’s shelters. If you can’t bear to part with the candy, put it in the freezer and save it for a rainy day.
  • Eat with meals or immediately after: During meals and immediately after, saliva production is increased. This will help fight bacteria in the mouth and rinse away food particles. Eating a healthy, balanced meal will also leave children with a satisfied stomach, resulting in less candy consumption.
  • Brush and floss 30 minutes after consuming: Brushing and flossing should already be an important part of your child’s every day hygiene habits, but it’s especially important after consuming candy! However, according to the Mayo Clinic, it’s best to wait about 30 minutes after consumption to start brushing. Foods high in sugar can release acids that attack tooth enamel; brushing too soon can remove the enamel.
  • Avoid hard or sticky candy: Candies that stay in the mouth for a long time put teeth at a greater risk for tooth decay. This type of candy spend a prolonged amount of time stuck to teeth and are more difficult for saliva to break down. Chocolate is, in fact, the best candy option. It dissolves quickly in the mouth, therefore having little contact with teeth. Dark chocolate is especially favorable since it is high in antioxidants.
  • Drink more water: Fluoride can help prevent tooth decay and it occurs naturally in water. While brushing and flossing after eating candy is ideal, rinsing with water will also help wash away some of the sugar and acid present in the mouth.

Other Helpful Tips

  • Don’t buy candy too far in advance: When you buy candy too far in advance, you’re creating temptation for you and your children. Don’t allow yourselves to get a head start on the splurge!
  • Have a game plan: Before you leave the house determine a game plane. How long will you spend trick or treating? Which neighborhoods will you go to?
  • Give out healthier treats: Do your part to help the fight against those little monsters known as cavities. Give out sugar-free candy, dark chocolate or even mini bags of pretzels. Some grocery stores even offer discounts on snack packs of fruit during the Halloween season.
  • Do a “safety check”: It’s always important to check your children’s trick or treat bags. Look for anything that doesn’t seem right: lumps under the wrappers, ripped or loose wrappers, candy that has an unpleasant smell, etc. When in doubt, throw it out.

Halloween is a great time to teach your children the importance of oral health. Remember that it’s a good idea to monitor candy intake all year round, not just during the holiday season. Children and adults should be brushing their teeth twice a day for 2-3 minutes, and don’t forget to floss! We want you to have healthy teeth long after Halloween is over.

Hotel Transylvania 2 is Sensory Friendly at AMC Tomorrow

Sensory-Friendly-Films-logoAMC Entertainment (AMC) and the Autism Society have teamed up to bring families affected by autism and with other special needs “Sensory Friendly Movie Screenings” every month – a wonderful opportunity to enjoy fun new films in a safe and accepting environment.

The movie auditoriums will have their lights turned up and the sound turned down. Families will be able to bring in snacks to match their child’s dietary needs (i.e. gluten-free, casein-free, etc.), there are no advertisements or previews before the movie and it’s totally acceptable to get up and dance, walk, shout, talk to each other…and even sing – in other words, AMC’s “Silence is Golden®” policy will not be enforced during movie screenings unless the safety of the audience is questioned.

Hotel Transylvania2-PosterDoes it make a difference? Absolutely! Imagine …no need to shhhhh your child. No angry stares from other movie goers. Many parents think twice before bringing a child to a movie theater. Add to that your child’s special needs and it can easily become cause for parental panic. But on this one day a month, for this one screening, everyone is there to relax and have a good time, everyone expects to be surrounded by kids – with and without special needs – and the movie theater policy becomes “Tolerance is Golden“.

This Saturday September 26th, at 10am local time, the Autism Society’s “Sensory Friendly Movie Screenings” program will be showing the Hotel Transylvania 2. Tickets are $4 to $6 depending on the location. To find a theatre near you, here is a list of AMC theatres nationwide participating in this fabulous program (note: to access full list, please scroll to the bottom of the page).

Coming in October: Pan


Editor’s note: Although Hotel Transylvania 2 has been chosen by the Autism Society as this month’s Sensory Friendly screening, we do want parents to know that it is rated PG by the Motion Picture Association of America for some scary images, action and rude humor. As always, please check the IMDB Parents Guide for a more detailed description of this film to determine if it is right for you and your child.

Sex and Sexual Health – 5 Reasons for Being Open with Kids

Talking about sex and relationships with your children as they grow up can help them look after their sexual health when they start having sex.

It won’t make them want to start having sex. Here are five good reasons to be open about sex with your child.

Your Child Wants the Facts About Sex

Why-talk-about-sex-wth-kidsA survey found that one in four (25%) teenagers feels confused, worried or even scared about sex and relationships, and that most teens would like to talk to their parents or carer about it.

Teenagers see images of sex in films, magazines, newspapers, adverts, on television and on the internet, but this doesn’t mean that they know the facts. They may be receiving confused and inaccurate messages. You can help them know what’s true and what’s not.

Talking About Sex Helps Them Wait

Evidence shows that if you talk to your teen about sex and relationships, they’ll feel less pressure to have sex, which means they’re more likely to wait. Talking openly gives them the confidence to approach the topic with a boyfriend or girlfriend in the future.

It Helps Them Make Decisions About Sex

By ensuring that your child knows about contraception (the methods, how they work and where to get them) and safer sex, you are helping them to make choices when they decide to have sex.

You’ll help them avoid taking risks that could lead to unintended pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Every teenager should know about contraception and safer sex, whether they’re a boy or girl, lesbian or gay, straight or bisexual.

Chlamydia is a Real Risk

Chlamydia is the most commonly diagnosed STI. Seventy per cent of girls and 50% of boys who are infected have no symptoms. If left untreated, chlamydia can cause complications, including infertility.

Your teenager needs to know that condoms help protect against infections such as chlamydia and other STIs. They also need to know where to get tested. A simple urine test or swab can detect chlamydia, which can be easily treated.

Find sexual health services in your area.

You Can be the Person They Trust

Once in secondary school (middle school*), your child will be going through puberty and hearing half-truths and myths from other kids. They might think that everyone else is having sex, but the truth is that most teenagers don’t have sex until they’re at least 16 (17 in the U.S.*).

This is a great opportunity to become someone that your child can go to for information, help and advice.

For ideas on how to start the conversation on sex and relationships, see Talking to your teen.

Editor’s Note: *clarification provided for our US audience.

Child Health & Safety News Roundup: 09-14-2015 to 09-20-2015

twitter thumbWelcome to Pediatric Safety’s weekly “Child Health & Safety News Roundup”- a recap of the past week’s child health and safety news headlines from around the world. Each day we use Twitter and Facebook to communicate relevant and timely health and safety information to the parents, medical professionals and other caregivers who follow us. Occasionally we may miss something, but we think overall we’re doing a pretty good job of keeping you informed. But for our friends and colleagues not on Twitter or FB (or who are but may have missed something), we offer you a recap of the past week’s top 15 events & stories.

PedSafe Child Health & Safety Headline of the Week:
Doxing and Cyberbullying – are they the same??