Childhood bullying seems to be almost ubiquitous to some extent, and yet researchers have time and time again underlined the negative effects it can have. Now, a new study has concluded that kids who were bullied by their peers suffer worse in the long term than those who were maltreated by adults.

Image via The Telegraph.

The research was led by Professor Dieter Wolke from Warwick’s Department of Psychology and Warwick Medical School and is due to be presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) annual meeting in San Diego on Tuesday 28 April. Their analysis was based on data from two previous studies, from 4,026 participants in the UK ALSPAC study (Avon Longtitudinal Study of Parents and Children) and 1,273 participants from the US Great Smoky Mountain Study.

Professor Wolke explains:

“The mental health outcomes we were looking for included anxiety, depression or suicidal tendencies. Our results showed those who were bullied were more likely to suffer from mental health problems than those who were maltreated. Being both bullied and maltreated also increased the risk of overall mental health problems, anxiety and depression in both groups.”

In the ASLPAC study, 8.5% of children reported maltreatment only, 29.7% reported bullying only and 7% reported both maltreatment and bullying, while in the Smoky Mountain study, 15% reported maltreatment, 16.3% reported bullying and 9.8% reported maltreatment and bullying. All in all, the kids who suffered from bullying had more problems dealing with it and reported more mental health issues associated with it.

“Being bullied is not a harmless rite of passage or an inevitable part of growing up; it has serious long-term consequences. It is important for schools, health services and other agencies to work together to reduce bullying and the adverse effects related to it,” Wolke concluded.

Journal Reference:

  1. Suzet Tanya Lereya, , William E Copeland, , Prof E Jane Costello, , Prof Dieter Wolke. Adult mental health consequences of peer bullying and maltreatment in childhood: two cohorts in two countries.Lancet Psychiatry, 2015 DOI: 10.1016/S2215-0366(15)00165-0

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