London: Children who suffer from bullying in their early years are more likely than their peers to engage in self harm as adolescents, a new study has suggested.
Researchers at the King`s College London found that half of the self-harming 12-year-olds they looked at in the study were frequently bullied.
The research, published in the British Medical Journal, also showed that victimised children with mental health problems were at greater risk of self-harming in later life.
The findings, the researchers said, suggest that bullying by peers is a major problem during the early school years and more efforts should be made to prevent this in schools, the BBC reported.
"This study found that before 12 years of age, a small proportion of children frequently exposed to this form of victimisation already deliberately harmed themselves and in some cases attempted to take their own lives," they said.
The researchers also raised fears over the long-term implications of bullying which could result in psychological issues, serious injury or death.
"This study adds to the growing literature showing that bullying during the early years of school can have extremely detrimental consequences for some children by the time they reach adolescence," they wrote.
The authors looked at more than 1,000 pairs of twins -- born between 1994-1995 in England and Wales -- at five, seven, 10 and 12 years old. The kids were assessed on the risks of self-harming in the six months prior to their 12th birthdays.
It was found that 237 children were victims of frequent bullying and of them, 18 (around eight per cent) self harmed, compared to 44 (two per cent) of the 1,904 kids who were not bullied, the researchers said.
Self harms involved cutting or biting arms, pulling out clumps of hair, banging their heads against walls or attempting suicide.
The study also showed that bullied children who had family members who had either attempted or committed suicide were more likely to self harm than others.
"Although only a small proportion of bullied children in this sample engaged in self harm, this is clearly too many and victims need to be provided with alternative coping strategies from a young age," the authors said.