Playground bullies may reap rewards other than extra lunch money. According to a study in this months issue of the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood, children who physically bully their peers are healthier than their victims.

David Wolke of the University of Hertfordshire and his colleagues interviewed more than 1,600 children between the ages of six and nine, as well as their parents. The researchers asked the children 12 questions about their involvement over the previous six months in both direct bullying, which involves hitting, and relational bullying, which includes manipulating peer relationships. The parents, meanwhile, answered questions regarding their children's physical and psychosomatic health, including whether a child suffered from bed-wetting or nightmares. Parents also answered whether they thought their children had faked illness to avoid going to school.

"Pure" bullieschildren who bully directly and are not victims at other timesare healthier and mentally stronger than their victims, the researchers found, suggesting that they "have a constitution that allows them to be dominant in inappropriate ways." Children classified as victims or bully/victims (sometimes they bully and sometimes they are bullied) are at an increased risk for such health problems as coughs, colds, aches and pains and nausea. In addition, direct victims and bully/victims, which accounted for 50 percent of the children interviewed, also had higher incidences of psychosomatic health problems and were more likely to make up illnesses to stay at home during school days, the authors write.

The researchers conclude that both direct and relational bullying behaviors are widespread among primary-school-age kids but note that they did not find any correlation between relational bullying and health effects. They state that bullying should be considered as a "contributory factor when children present repeatedly with sore throats, colds and coughs, nausea, appetite problems, or are worried about going to school.