Food allergy-related bullying common among children and adolescents

According to researchers at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine and Fordham University, both in New York City, children with food allergy (FA) are vulnerable to bullying, harassment, and teasing.


Prior research that relied on parental reports suggested that bullying of youth with FA is prevalent. Child reports were lacking. The researchers took advantage of outpatient allergy clinic visits to separately survey patients (children and adolescents) and their parents. They examined bullying both generally and specific to FA.

A planned interim analysis of 111 cases found that 28.8% of children reported that they were ‘‘bullied, harassed or teased’’ due to FA; and 43.8% reported any-reason bullying. Among respondents in the age range of 6th-10th graders, 32.6% reported having been bullied, harassed, or teased due to FA while 48.8% reported having had those experiences for any reason. These findings contrast with 17% of bullying among 6th-10th graders reported in a 2001 national survey.

Parents were unaware of the bullying in 32% of the child-reported FA-related cases, the current researchers noted. In a subgroup of 11 children who reported being bullied at least two-to-three times per month due to FA, parents were unaware that the child was bullied in 64% of the cases. Offenses were most likely to occur at school.

“Practitioners should consider specifically asking about bullying in this vulnerable population and provide anticipatory guidance about it,” the researchers concluded.