Dec 5 Fistfights among children have become less
common over the last decade in 19 out of 30 countries surveyed
in a Canadian study - but fighting in the United States and
Canada has remained steady, while it has risen in countries such
"It was not something that we anticipated," said William
Pickett, lead author of the study, which appeared in the journal
Pediatrics. "If anything, given what you hear in the news, I
would have anticipated the reverse."
Fighting among children is an important public health
problem, added Pickett, a professor at Queen's University in
Kingston, Canada. Not only does it increase their chances of
getting hurt, but it's also tied up in other dangerous
behaviors, such as drinking and using drugs.
To gauge how big the problem is internationally, Pickett and
his colleagues surveyed nearly half a million school children in
30 countries, most of them in Europe. The children were between
11 and 15 years old.
In 2002, 154,000 children responded to the questionnaire,
which asked how often they fought. Another 166,000 responded in
2006, and 174,000 responded in 2010.
Taken together, nearly 14 percent of the children reported
that they got into a fight at least three times in the previous
12 months in 2002. That number dropped closer to 13 percent in
2006, and in 2010 to 11.6 percent.
"We saw this as very positive news," Pickett told Reuters
Health. "As society has evolved, there's probably less tolerance
of fighting in school systems and probably (more prevention)
efforts across these countries."
Fighting in the United States ranged from nearly 12 percent
of children to close to 10 percent, depending on the year, but
there was no obvious decline.
"It's reassuring that the rates aren't going up," said
Rashmi Shetgiri, a pediatrician and violence prevention
researcher at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical
Center, who was not involved in the study.
"(But) it makes me wonder, have we sort of reached a plateau
in terms of the interventions that we're using, and do we need
to develop some different types of interventions or use them in
a different way to really make those rates start going down
again," she told Reuters Health.
Shetgiri said programs to curb bullying and improve social
skills have been successful in reducing fighting, but perhaps
tailoring them to specific racial and ethnic groups could have
an even bigger impact.
Pickett pointed out that the United States, Canada and
several other countries did show modest improvements in fighting
rates, but the differences were so small that they could have
been due to chance.
Greater numbers of children reported fighting in Greece,
Latvia and the Ukraine reported fighting during each subsequent
survey, and the authored pointed out that these countries
experienced considerable economic instability during the study
In addition, they found that children from low income
countries were more likely to fight than kids from wealthier
"If economic instability is the problem, we should monitor
this because of what is going on in the world these days,"
(Reporting from New York by Kerry Grens at Reuters Health;
editing by Elaine Lies)