Effects of Childhood Bullying Last at Least 40 Years

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First ever study of long-term effects of childhood bullying.

The first ever long-term study of the mental scars that bullying leaves finds its effects are still detectable 40 years later.

The findings, published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, come from the British National Child Development Study which includes 7,771 children who were born during one week in 1958 (Takizawa et al., 2014).

When they were 7 and 11-years-old, their parents were asked whether they were being bullied.

Of the children in the study, 28% were bullied occasionally and 15% were bullied frequently.

The children were then followed up until they were 50-years-old.

The study’s lead authors, Dr Ryu Takizawa, explained the findings:

“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.”

The effects of being bullied were seen across a wide range of psychological measures, including:

  • A higher risk of depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts.
  • Poorer cognitive functioning.
  • Lower quality of life.
  • Lower life satisfaction.
  • Less likely to be in a relationship.

The study took into account IQ, any behavioural and emotional problems the child had, how wealthy the family was and the parents’ involvement with their child.

The study’s senior author, Professor Louise Arseneault, said:

“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.

Programmes 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.”

Image credit: Twentyfour Students

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Dr Jeremy Dean is a psychologist and the author of PsyBlog. His latest book is "Making Habits, Breaking Habits: How to Make Changes That Stick". You can follow PsyBlog by email, by RSS feed, on Twitter and Google+.

Published: 13 May 2014

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Images: Creative Commons License