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Bullies, Victims 3 Times More Likely to Have Suicidal Thoughts

Bullies, Victims 3 Times More Likely to Have Suicidal ThoughtsChildren involved in bullying — as both a victim and a bully — are three times more likely to have suicidal thoughts by the time they reach 11 years old, according to research from The University of Warwick.

In a paper published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, researchers found children who are both victims and bullies, known as “bully-victims,” are at an increased risk of considering suicide, or have planned and engaged in suicidal or self-harming behavior by 11 or 12 years of age. These increased odds were not explained by other factors, such as family circumstances or pre-existing emotional problems, the researchers note.

The team looked at data from 6,043 children in the Children of the 90s study at the University of Bristol to assess bullying between 4 and 10 years and the prevalence of suicidal thoughts at 11-12 years old. The study used information collected from parents and teachers, as well as the child, to see how common bullying or victim behavior was.

They found that, compared to children who were never bullied, “bully-victims” were three times as likely to have suicidal thoughts, and that those who were bullied over a long period of time were six times more likely to consider suicide.

Those who bully others but never become victims — known as “pure bullies” — were also at increased risk for suicidal thoughts and suicidal or self-harming behavior, but the findings were not as consistent.

“Our study findings suggest that suicide-related behavior is a serious problem for pre-adolescent youth — 4.8% of this community population reported suicidal thoughts and 4.6% reported suicidal or self-injurious behavior,” said Professor Dieter Wolke of the Department of Psychology and Warwick Medical School at the University of Warwick.

“Health practitioners should be aware of the relationship between bullying and suicide, and should recognize the very real risks that may be evident earlier in development than commonly thought. Targeting intervention schemes from primary school onward is paramount, and could help to prevent chronic exposure to bullying, which is especially harmful.”

Source: The University of Warwick

Sad child photo by shutterstock.

Bullies, Victims 3 Times More Likely to Have Suicidal Thoughts

Janice Wood

Janice Wood is a long-time writer and editor who began working at a daily newspaper before graduating from college. She has worked at a variety of newspapers, magazines and websites, covering everything from aviation to finance to healthcare.

APA Reference
Wood, J. (2018). Bullies, Victims 3 Times More Likely to Have Suicidal Thoughts. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 24, 2019, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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