Effects Of Childhood Bullying Can Persist For Decades
April 19, 2014

Effects Of Childhood Bullying Can Persist For Decades

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

The effects of bullying simply don’t go away as children grow up, according to a new American Journal of Psychiatry study that claims that the impact of being harassed or picked-on as a child can still be felt up to four decades later.

Lead author Dr. Ryu Takizawa of the King’s College London Institute of Psychiatry and colleagues reviewed data from the British National Child Development Study, which includes information on all children born in England, Scotland and Wales during one particular week in 1958. They reviewed the records of over 7,700 children who had reportedly been bullied between the ages of seven and 11.

The participating children were followed until the age of 50. According to Dr. Takizawa, the study – which is said to be the first to examine the effects of such behavior beyond early adulthood – found that there were health, social and economic consequences for the victims that persisted, even 40 years after the incidents took place.

According to the researchers, 28 percent of the youngsters in the study had been occasional victims of bullying, while 15 percent were bullied regularly – rates roughly on par with those currently experienced in the UK. Those who were bullied were found to have worse physical health, psychological well-being and cognitive functioning at age 50.

Those who were frequently bullied as children faced an elevated risk of depression, anxiety disorders and suicidal thoughts, and those who were victims of such behavior were also likely to have lower educational levels. Men who were bullied were more likely to earn less money or be unemployed, and both men and women were less likely to be in a romantic relationship, have a good social support network, and be satisfied with their quality of life.

“We need to move away from any perception that bullying is just an inevitable part of growing-up,” said senior author and King’s College London Professor Louise Arseneault. “40 years is a long time, so there will no doubt be additional experiences during the course of these young people's lives which may either protect them against the effects of bullying, or make things worse.”

“Teachers, parents and policy-makers should be aware that what happens in the school playground can have long-term repercussions for children,” she added. “Programs to stop bullying are extremely important, but we also need to focus our efforts on early intervention to prevent potential problems persisting into adolescence and adulthood. Our next step is to investigate what these are.”

Bullying, identified by the study authors as behavior characterized by repeated harmful actions perpetrated against peers of a similar age who are largely unable to defend themselves, persisted – even when other factors such as childhood IQ, family socioeconomic status, and lack of parental involvement were accounted for.