Statistics on Bullying

Posted Posted in Brain Science, Continuing Education, Homestudy, Psychology

cyber-bullying-122156_640Bullying is not only a serious problem, it is deceptively complex. As a result, it is not easy to understand bullying problems or to determine how to respond to them. It is important to address bullying because it is pervasive and accompanied by detrimental and often subtle effects that linger after the episodes end. The dynamics of bullying go beyond the children, youth, or adults who bully or are bullied. Individual features, family and peer interactions, and cultural considerations all contribute to bullying. Making the situation more complex are new forms of bullying such as cyberbullying, which has unique implications for prevention and intervention.

Common in the schoolyard and in the workplace for decades, bullying has been a predictable, “accepted,” usually undiscussed although painful, part of childhood, youth, and adulthood. It has been said that bullying is “the most prevalent form of low-level violence in schools today.” Until very recently, bullying has been tolerated in Western society, and school-based bullying was considered a “normal” part of childhood that had a possibly good outcome through “character-building.” Although some people still see it that way, possibly because of how pervasive bullying is in the school context, bullying has recently been recognized as a public health problem that needs to be addressed.

But it has taken acts of extreme violence in which bullying appeared to be a factor for this phenomenon really to become part of the public agenda. For example, after the April 1999 Columbine killings, it was learned that one of many factors that may have contributed to the killing spree by Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold was their chronic victimization by popular school athletes. Of course, this was a special case of extreme violence that doesn’t occur in the vast majority of schools. Still, Columbine was described by certain students, teachers, and parents as a place where bullying was tolerated.

Prevalence of Bullying

  •  In 2009, about 28 percent of 12- to 18-year-old students reported having been bullied at school during the school year and 6 percent reported having been cyberbullied.
  • High school students are more likely to be cyberbullied than middle school students
  •  Of all students who reported being cyberbullied in 2009, about 3 percent reported being subjected to harassing text messages (4 percent of girls and 2 percent of boys).
  •  20 percent of female and 13 percent of male students reported being the subject of adverse rumors in 2009
  • 10 percent of male and 8 percent of female students reported being pushed, shoved, tripped or spit upon
  • 6 percent of female and 4 percent of male students reported being deliberately excluded from activities

Other statistics:

  • 19 percent of students reported having been made fun of
  • 16 percent were the subject of negative rumors
  • 9 percent reported being pushed
  •  6 percent reported being threatened
  •  5 percent reported being excluded
  •  4 percent reported being forced to do things they didn’t want to do
  • 3 percent reported having their property destroyed
  •  Boys are 1.7 times as likely to bully as girls
  •  Boys are also 2.5 times as likely as girls to bully as well as be bullied
  •  Boys are typically bullied by boys, while girls are typically bullied by both boys and girls
  • 20 percent of girls and 25 percent of boys reported that they had either bullied, been bullied, or both two to three times a month or more

Learn all about bullying in our homestudy course, The Psychology of Bullying.   Check out all of our courses by clicking below.


Focus on PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)

Posted Posted in Brain Science, Continuing Education, Homestudy, Psychology

In the United States, lifetime prevalence of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) is estimated to be 6–9 percent. The highest occurrence of PTSD is associated with exposure to traumatic experiences such as terrorism (i.e., 9/11) or combat; yet rates of PTSD in impoverished, high-risk inner city populations in the U.S. may be at least as high as among veterans returning from combat or people exposed to terrorist attacks or other disasters.

PTSD_171315269PTSD is more common in women than in men. While it occurs in people of all ages, young and old persons are the most vulnerable. Other factors associated with increased risk for PTSD include low income, poor education, poor social supports, and prior psychotropic drug use.

The incidence and course of PTSD are variable and depend on various factors, including the source, type, proximity, intensity, and duration of the trauma, the patient’s subjective interpretation of the trauma, and the reaction of the patient’s relatives and associates. Factors that can contribute to a good prognosis include: prompt diagnosis and treatment, early and ongoing social support, avoidance of further trauma, absence of other psychiatric disorders or substance abuse, and positive premorbid function.

PTSD may be caused by exposure to a severe traumatic stress that threatens death or serious injury or threat to personal integrity; for example:

  • physical abuse
  • rape
  • sexual and physical abuse in childhood
  • car accidents
  • fires and industrial accidents
  • being in a war zone or terrorist activity zone
  • being in an earthquake or another natural disaster
  • receiving a serious medical diagnosis
  • being subjected to invasive, painful treatment of medical problems

A number of factors increase the likelihood that a patient will develop PTSD in response to a given stress, including the following:

  • lack of social support (in children, lack of parental support)
  • prior exposure to traumatic incidents
  • a pre-existing psychiatric disorder
  • repeated trauma
  • trauma caused by a trusted person rather than the result of an accident

PTSD is not a fatal disorder. Nevertheless, it frequently leads to conduct disorder, substance abuse, depression, anxiety disorders, and risk-taking that pose considerable danger. Approximately 80 percent of those with PTSD have at least one comorbid psychiatric disorder.
Younger patients, in particular, in addition to the symptoms of numbing, hyperarousal, and recurrent recollections of the event, often become unable to participate in the normal developmental experiences and fail at school and work. They often develop a host of emotional and behavioral problems, such as disruptive behavior disorders, eating disorders, sexual acting out, other risk-taking activities, depression, the full range of anxiety disorders, dissociation, mood lability, violence, and difficulty concentrating.

Learn more about PTSD in our homestudy course, Brain and Stress: PTSD & Adjustment Disorder.   Explore all of our homestudy courses by clicking the image below.


Chocolate: Junk, Nutrition or Medicine?

Posted Posted in Continuing Education, Homestudy, Nutrition, Psychology

By Barbara Sternberg, Ph.D.


Christopher Columbus and his crew were the first Europeans to “discover” chocolate. In 1502, during Columbus’ fourth voyage to the New World, he and his crew found what they called “almonds” in a canoe they had captured. Taken back to Europe, the cacao beans were initially overlooked by the Spanish royalty, who were more interested in gold and other valuable treasures.

Nowadays, people generally consider chocolate to be a tasty treat, a fattening indulgence, an irresistible hedonistic pleasure, and even a mood-altering substance. In one survey of college students’ attitudes toward chocolate, 81% perceived chocolate as fattening and 54% perceived it to be unhealthy. Few seriously consider chocolate in terms of its nutritional value. However, for most of chocolate’s history in human culture, long before humans were equipped to decipher the chemical make-up of the beans from Theobroma cacao, chocolate was considered not only a nutritional powerhouse but also a medicinal food.

Research shows positive claims for the medicinal uses of cacao over the centuries. These include uses of:

  • Chocolate eaten as an antidote to everything from anemia, angina, poor appetite, asthma and poor breast milk production, to constipation, fever, hangovers, hemorrhoids, pain, syphilis, low virility, vomiting, and worms.
  •  Preparations of cacao bark eaten to reduce abdominal pain and bloody diarrhea.
  • Cacao butter/fat/oil, used as a food or applied externally, for bronchitis, respiratory distress, and wound healing, among other ailments.
  • Cacao flower, used in baths, infusions, or applied directly to the skin, to soothe toothache pain, reduce fatigue, and treat burns.
  • Cacao fruit pulp, eaten, to facilitate childbirth.
  • Cacao leaf, applied externally to stop excessive bleeding and disinfect wounds.

Chocolate has the unique ability to induce pleasure and satisfaction in many people in a way that few other foods can. And based on current knowledge, it is safe to say that, for most people, this favorite snack or dessert food will not adversely affect health or add to risk for any major health problems. On the contrary, chocolate may actually have health benefits.

Learn More about chocolate and the benefits from indulging with our homestudy course.


The Link Between Inflammation and Antioxidants

Posted Posted in Continuing Education, Homestudy, Nutrition

berries-221193_640By Annell St. Charles, Ph.D., R.D.

Inflammation has been mentioned as one contributor to cognitive dysfunction. Evidence suggests that inflammation is associated with age-related cognitive decline and may play a role in risk for dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease.

Potential pro-inflammatory sources of irritation/infection include:

  • microbial and viral infections.
  • exposure to allergens, radiation, and toxic chemicals .
  • autoimmune and chronic diseases.
  • obesity.
  • excess alcohol.
  • tobacco use.
  • a high-calorie diet.

There are two stages of inflammation: acute and chronic. Acute inflammation results from activation of the immune system, persists for only a short time, and is usually beneficial for the repair and healing of the damaged tissue and in removing invading pathogens. Chronic inflammation lasts for a longer period of time and may increase the risk of various long-lasting illnesses.

The relationship between inflammation and oxidative stress is two-fold. On one hand, inflammation leads to an increased uptake of oxygen, resulting in an increased release of free radicals and their metabolites (called reactive oxygen species). The inflammatory response also increases production of substances that further recruit inflammatory cells to the site of damage, resulting in the production of more reactive species. In simple terms, inflammation triggers a cycle that produces more inflammation, and the cycle is accompanied by an increase in oxidative stress.

A large body of research suggests that inflammation in the central nervous system increases with age, in part due to an increase in activation of microglia cells, which promotes a pro-inflammatory response. Microglia cells make up approximately 20 percent of the cell population of certain regions of the brain, and their activation would result in significant brain cell inflammation.
The diet can be a source of nutrients and non-nutrient constituents that can modulate inflammatory processes and, thus, aide cognitive function. Plant foods are considered a particularly rich source of anti-inflammatory substances. Diets high in fruits and vegetables are inversely associated with the risk of inflammation. In particular, carotenoids and flavonoids seem to reduce inflammatory processes.

Blueberries have been found to have one of the highest anti-inflammatory/antioxidant capacities of all fruits and vegetables. One study showed that daily ingestion of one cup of blueberries increased natural killer cell counts (helps to regulate the immune response to injury or infection), and a one-time ingestion of 1.5 cups reduced oxidative stress and increased anti-inflammatory cytokines. Research has also demonstrated that blueberry extract may inhibit one of the primary steps in the inflammatory stress pathway by reducing activation of microglia cells.

Pterostilbene is the natural dietary compound that contributes to the primary antioxidant component of blueberries. Research suggests that pterostilbene may have numerous preventive and therapeutic properties in a wide range of human diseases, including neurological/cognitive disorders.

Researchers have also demonstrated a high level of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds in many other plant foods. In particular, the polyphenolic compounds contained in berries of all types, walnuts, curcumin, and fish oils have been found to provide potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities that may reduce the age-related sensitivity to oxidative stress or inflammation, which would, in turn, alter neurodegeneration.