Can bullying be stopped among food allergic children?

Published Online: June 11, 2014

Children with food allergies often experience high rates of bullying, which can take a tremendous toll on quality of life and well-being. The long-term course and impact of food allergy-related bullying remains unknown as studies to date have been cross-sectional. In the present study, families were followed for one year in order to: a) examine the chronicity of bullying, and b) to determine if specific strategies were associated with a reduction in bullying.

In a study recently published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice, Annunziato and colleagues present findings from a longitudinal investigation of bullying in children with food allergies. Previously, their group found that in a cohort of 251 families, 32% of surveyed children reported having been bullied due to food allergies. In the present study, families were contacted one year later (T2) and given an identical questionnaire packet as in the initial study (T1). Questionnaires included demographic information, bullying and allergy characteristics, assessment of quality of life, as well as strategies used by parents to address bullying. Responses were received by 124 families, or 49% of the original sample.

Bullying due to food allergy was reported by 29% of children surveyed at T2, a similar rate (i.e., 32%) as reported at T1. Sixty-nine percent of the children who were bullied at T1 continued to report that they are being bullied. Therefore, at T2, bullying had remitted for 31%; for these children, reported quality of life improved.

Ultimately, this longitudinal evaluation of food allergy-related bullying revealed that most children continue to be bullied, though when remission did occur, it was associated with parental intervention and improved quality of life.

Parents’ knowledge of the bullying was not enough to stop it. However, analyses revealed that when parents took specific actions—such as addressing bullying with school personnel—these efforts predicted successful resolution. Knowing this, clinicians should discuss bullying at all visits and if present, recommend to parents that they address the situation with school personnel.

The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice is an official journal of the AAAAI, focusing on practical information for the practicing clinician.

Close-up of pine tree branches in Winter Close-up of pine tree branches in Winter