The negative effects of childhood bullying are still evident nearly 40 years later, according to new findings by researchers at King’s College London. The study, published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, is the first to investigate the repercussions of childhood bullying beyond early adulthood.
“Our study shows that the effects of bullying are still visible nearly four decades later. The impact of bullying is persistent and pervasive with health, social, and economic consequences lasting well into adulthood,” said lead author Dr. Ryu Takizawa from the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London.
Bullying is defined as the repeated harmful actions by children of a similar age, in which the victims find it difficult to defend themselves. The harmful results of bullying were consistent even when other factors were taken into account, including IQ, emotional and behavioral problems, parents’ socioeconomic status, and low parental involvement.
The study involved 7,771 children whose parents reported on their child’s experiences with bullying at ages seven and 11. The data was pulled from the British National Child Development Study which includes information on all children born in England, Scotland, and Wales during one week in 1958. The children were then followed up until the age of 50.
Just over a quarter of the children in the study (28 percent) had been bullied occasionally, and 15 percent had been bullied frequently — similar to today’s statistics.
Victims of childhood bullying were more likely to have worse physical and mental health and lower cognitive functioning at age 50. Sufferers of frequent bullying were also at an increased risk of depression, anxiety disorders, and suicidal thoughts.
Furthermore, those who had been bullied were more likely to have lower educational levels, with males being more likely to be unemployed and earn less. Bullied children were less likely to be in relationships as adults, less likely to have good social support, and more likely to report lower quality of life and overall life satisfaction.
“We need to move away from any perception that bullying is just an inevitable part of growing-up. Teachers, parents, and policy-makers should be aware that what happens in the school playground can have long-term repercussions for children,” said senior author Professor Louise Arseneault from the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College.
“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.”
“Forty 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. Our next step is to investigate what these are,” said Arseneault.
Source: King’s College London