Schoolyard bullies have always taunted kids who wear glasses. Now a study from the United Kingdom has quantified it: Preadolescent children who wear glasses or eye patches are more than one-third more likely to be bullied than other kids, says a study in Aprils Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science. Interestingly, the numbers were the same regardless of social class, gender or the childs visual impairment.

During the one-year study, researchers at the University of Bristol, England, examined 6,536 preadolescent children who wore glasses, had manifest strabismus, or had a history of wearing an eye patch. The objective: to learn whether they were predisposed to more frequent bullying at school and if the amount of bullying differed between boys and girls. Psychologists then interviewed the patients to assess their involvement in bullying, either as the target or perpetrator. 

Results showed that 35% to 37% of these children were more likely to be targets of physical or verbal bullying, even after adjustments were made for social class and maternal education. The researchers found no relationship between the participants gender and visual problems in the prediction of bullying.

This kid is one-third more likely to be bullied.

So, how can you protect your young patients from bullying? Dominick M. Maino, O.D., M.Ed., of the Illinois College of Optometry, has found what he believes to be an effective method. I give the child a stack of my professional cards. I tell him to hand a card to whomever teases him and to say, If you have a problem with me wearing glasses, you need to talk to my eye doctor. Hell tell you why I need to wear them! Dr. Maino says. Then, I tell him to turn his back and simply walk away.

In the many years Dr. Maino has taught this method, he says that only one child has had the nerve to call him. I explained to this child in no uncertain terms why my patient needed to wear the glasses, added a few additional choice words and hung up, he says.

Horwood J, Waylen A, Herrick D, et al. Common visual defects and peer victimization in children. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 2005 Apr;46(4):1177-81.

Vol. No: 142:5Issue: 5/15/05