Bullied Kids May Become Career Criminals
August 2, 2013

Bullied Kids May Become Career Criminals

April Flowers for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

Individuals who suffered repeated bullying throughout their childhood and adolescence are significantly more likely to go to prison than people who did not, according to a new study presented at the American Psychological Association's (APA) 121st Annual Convention on August 1 in Honolulu, Hawaii.

The study, conducted by Michael G. Turner, PhD, of the Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, revealed almost 14 percent of those who reported being bullied repeatedly from childhood through their teens ended up in prison as adults. This is compared to six percent of non-victims, nine percent of childhood-only victims, and seven percent of teen-only victims.

Turner also compared conviction rates, finding more than 20 percent of those who endured chronic bullying were convicted of crimes, compared to 11 percent of non-victims, 16 percent of childhood victims, and 13 percent of teen victims. Non-white childhood victims had significantly lower odds of serving prison time than white childhood victims, according to Turner's analysis.

"Previous research has examined bullying during specific time periods, whereas this study is the first to look at individuals' reports of bullying that lasted throughout their childhood and teen years, and the legal consequences they faced in late adolescence and as adults," said Turner.

Among other findings, the study revealed women who suffered chronic bullying from childhood through their teens had significantly higher odds of using alcohol or drugs, and of being arrested and convicted than men who had also suffered long-term chronic bullying.

For the study, Turner analyzed data collected by the US Department of Labor and the Bureau of Justice Statistics during the 1997 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth. The participant cohort consisted of 7,335 individuals between the ages of 12 and 16 as of Dec. 31, 1996, and reflected the demographics of the US at the time.

Four groups were identified by the analysis: non-victims (74 percent); those bullied repeatedly before the age of 12 (15 percent); those bullied repeatedly after the age of 12 (6 percent); and those repeatedly victimized before and after the age of 12 (5 percent). The survey collected accounts of repeated bullying over several periods and the legal outcomes were assessed when participants' were in their late teens or adults. The relationships between bullying and legal outcomes were examined across gender and race, as well. The participants were followed over a 14-year time period, starting in early adolescence and ending in adulthood.

Turner believes his findings will be significant for medical professionals.

"This study highlights the important role that health care professionals can play early in a child's life when bullying is not adequately addressed by teachers, parents or guardians," Turner said. "With appropriate questions during routine medical checkups, they can be critical first points of contact for childhood victims. Programs that help children deal with the adverse impacts of repeated bullying could make the difference in whether they end up in the adult legal system."