The study results were based on survey data from a total of 12,048 children in the two countries, ranging in age from 11 to 15 years old. One limitation was that the medical conditions, including arthritis, were reported by the children involved and not independently verified, Dr. Godeau says.

But education can help break bullying cycles, Dr. Godeau says. She points out that anti-bullying initiatives are more recent and less prevalent in France than in Ireland, which may at least partially explain the variation between the two countries.

Neither do educational efforts have to be targeted at a particular condition like arthritis, she says.

“That is, if parents and teachers talk to the other students about disability in general, this will raise the awareness of the kids toward kids with differences,” she says.