Children with dental problems may experience more bullying
AMMAN, Jordan: Although the phenomenon of bullying has received growing attention from scientists, only few studies have investigated the impact of dentofacial features on bullying in schools. Now, a study of over 900 sixth-graders has shown that dental problems were among the primary reasons children became targets of bullying.
The study involved 470 girls and 450 boys, aged 11 to 12, who were enrolled at 12 randomly selected schools in Amman. Almost 50 per cent of the participants reported having been bullied in the past months. The researchers found that more boys reported having experienced bullying (55 per cent) compared with girls (40 per cent).
According to the study, general physical characteristics, and dentofacial features in particular, were targeted in victims of bullying. Of the students who reported having been bullied, teeth were the primary feature identified by the children (50 per cent) as a target for bullying, followed by weight (31 per cent), hair (30 per cent) and clothes (26 per cent).
The most commonly reported features targeted by bullies were spaces between teeth or missing teeth (21.5 per cent), the shape or colour of teeth (20.6 per cent) and prominent anterior teeth (19.6 per cent).
With regard to school performance, 40 per cent of the children in the study believed that bullying negatively affected their school grades.
In contrast to a number of earlier studies, in which features such as weight and height preceded dental features as the target for bullying, the present study found that teeth were the physical features that appeared to be targeted most frequently. “The difference in findings might be explained by the fact that dental aesthetics have become a key factor in social attractiveness in our modern society,” the researchers said.
They also said that the findings hold important implications for dental professionals and orthodontists in particular. They hope that further research could determine whether orthodontic treatment reduces bullying.
The study, titled “Bullying among Jordanian schoolchildren, its effects on school performance, and the contribution of general physical and dentofacial features”, was published in the December issue of the American Journal of Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics. It was conducted by researchers at the University of Jordan in collaboration with University College London in the UK.