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Hungry Kids Are More Likely To Be Bullied, And Be Bullies Themselves, Study Shows


The North Texas Food Bank is exploring the link between hunger and bullying. Researchers wanted to find out if kids who are food insecure were more likely to be bullied than kids who got enough to eat, and whether hungry kids are more likely to bully others. 

Government Relations Director Valerie Hawthorne explains the results.

Interview Highlights

On food insecurity

To first understand food insecurity, you have to understand food security. Food security is what many of us have the privilege of having, where we don’t ever have to worry about where our next meal is coming from. We know that there will be food in the refrigerator when we get home, or we have the means in our pocketbook to go and get food whenever we need it. Food insecurity, on the other hand, is a condition in which people don’t know where their next meal is going to come from, or they don’t have the means or the availability, which is just as important, to get nutritious food.

Why hungry kids are more likely to be bullied

Bullies like to pick on peers that are going to respond. And so the child in the classroom that’s more happy and satisfied and calm in their life is not going to be an attractive target for a bully. The child that’s already on edge, and already may have some issues going on, is a real attractive target because they’re going to respond, they’re going to hit back and that’s why they tend to be more bullied.

Why hungry kids are more likely to bully others

You first have to understand bullies, and bullying behavior. Most of it does come out of insecurity, even social or emotional insecurity, as well as just aggression. And we know that when we are hungry, as adults, we tend to be a little shorter than everybody, and we tend to have a little bit more of a temper, and children have a harder time controlling that. Hunger is such a complex problem; it’s basically a symptom of poverty. We do know that low-income households do tend to have more aggressive behavior within the households. So that is just another layer on this very complex cake of what is going on in the minds of these children that are food insecure.

Credit North Texas Food Bank
North Texas Food Bank
These are the questions teachers responded to when asked to help determine a child's level of food security.

Interview responses have been edited for length and clarity. 

Courtney Collins has been working as a broadcast journalist since graduating from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in 2004. Before coming to KERA in 2011, Courtney worked as a reporter for NPR member station WAMU in Washington D.C. While there she covered daily news and reported for the station’s weekly news magazine, Metro Connection.