Alexandra PosadzkiTimes Colonist
Date Published: Wednesday, June 20, 2012
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Some of Canada's leading experts on bullying are calling for a national strategy to address an "epidemic," which they say not only affects children's psychological wellbeing and academic performance but also their DNA.
According a recent study by an international alliance of researchers in collaboration with the World Health Organization, 17 per cent of 11yearold girls in Canada report being bullied at least twice in the past few months. That puts Canada at sixth place out of 38 countries for highest rate of bullying among girls of that age.
Wendy Craig, a professor from Queen's University who was involved in the study, told a conference in Toronto on Tuesday that bullying is a public health problem because of its prevalence.
The researchers said children who are exposed to frequent bullying and domestic violence show premature erosion of the telomeres - DNA found at the end of chromosomes, offering protection as cells continuously divide throughout a person's life.
Debra Pepler, a psychology professor at York University, said these DNA changes demonstrate just how harmful bullying is.
"It's not just in children's behaviour; it's not just in what you see," said Pepler. "It's much deeper, in terms of the cellular level, in terms of their DNA, in brain structure, brain architecture, brain responsivity, and it's all in response to stress that children have in their lives."
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