Birth Trauma and Bullying

by Shirley A. Ward, Med DipEd

Bullying is a behavioural problem affecting the lives of thousands of school children and their families. At primary school level in the Republic of Ireland over one in ten children are involved in bullying on a frequent basis. According to Dr Mona O'Moore in her handbook on Bullying, from Trinity College, Dublin in 1994, one child in five is afraid to go to school because of the fear of being bullied.

Bullying is the persistent, willful conscious desire to hurt another and put that person under stress. It is carried out through verbal, physical, gesture, exclusion and extortion bullying.

As bullying is aggression then children who bully have an aggressive attitude towards peers, parents and teachers. Connecting bullying to birth trauma, all aggressive actions come from fear and the child who may have had an aggressive reaction to a traumatic birth with a real underlying fear of dying. If bullying is intentional to hurt others, it is possible that the bullying related to birth trauma might be unconscious revenge on the forceps.

The child that is bullied may have a passive reaction to a traumatic birth with a real fear of dying. The victim is often seen as different; they may be hypersensitive, cautious, anxious, passive or submissive, and are not determined, forceful or decisive.

A report published by the charity Kidscape on 21st April 1998 found that children who were bullied at school are up to seven times more likely to try to kill themselves. More research is needed - even by schools to note down on children's record cards the type of birth they had and whether there is any correlation to behaviour patterns later.

A leading question is whether the type of birth trauma experienced by a child leads to bullying and also to types of suicide attempts.

Research evidence shows for example that the cord round the neck may lead to suicide by hanging; a drugged birth may lead to overdose; anaesthesia at birth may lead to death by car exhaust fumes (this used to be gas oven asphyxiation).

Much more research is needed in this most important aspect.
ęShirley A Ward 1998


Telephone: Alison Hunter 061 - 376331, Shirley Ward 061 - 374533, Carmel Byrne 061 - 374926. Write to: Amethyst, Ballybroghan, Killaloe, County Clare, Ireland. Email -

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