Bullying Victims More Likely To Harm Themselves

A new study from researchers at King’s College London has discovered that children who are bullied early on in life are more likely to self-harm during early adolescence, up to the age of 12.

In an April 26 statement, the British Medical Journal (BMJ), which published the study, said that the authors studied more than 1,000 pairs of twins, all of whom were born in either 1994 or 1995 in England or Wales. Each of the children studied were contacted at the ages of five, seven, ten, and twelve.

Of the 2,141 children studied, 237 were reported to be victims of frequent bullying, and 18 of them (8%) self-harmed. Of the remaining 1,904 children who were not bullied, only 44 (2%) were self-harmers, the BMJ statement said.

In addition, the researchers pinpointed several factors which increased the risk of self-harm among those kids who were victimized by bullying, a Times of India report said Friday. Among those risk-factors were a family history of self-harming, maltreatment, and emotional or behavioral issues.

“Bullying by peers is a major problem during the early school years,” the authors wrote in their study, according to a BBC News article. “This study found that before 12 years of age a small proportion of children frequently exposed to this form of victimization already deliberately harmed themselves and in some cases attempted to take their own lives.”

“Frequent victimization by peers increased the risk of self harm,” they added. “This study adds to the growing literature showing that bullying during the early years of school can have extremely detrimental consequences for some children by the time they reach adolescence“¦ This finding is even more concerning given that studies have suggested that early patterns of self harm can persist through adolescence into adulthood and increase the risk of later psychological problems.”

According to BMJ, the study defined bullying as frequent instances during which one child says hurtful or mean-spirited things to another, when a victim is intentionally ignored or excluded, when a victim is hit, kicked, or shoved by a peer, or when one child tells lies or spreads false rumors about another. Likewise, examples of self-harm included cutting and/or biting arms, pulling out clumps of one’s own hair, banging a head against walls, and an attempted suicide via strangulation, the journal’s press release said.

“Although only a small proportion of bullied children in this sample engaged in self harm, this is clearly too many and victims need to be provided with alternative coping strategies from a young age,” the authors said, according to the BBC.