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Victims of childhood bullying have problems as adults
February 21, 2013 - Andrea Johnson
Bullying is more than just child's play. It can have long-term consequences, as anyone who has ever been the victim of verbal taunts and physical assaults by classmates can attest.
According to a study released this week in JAMA Psychiatry, people who were bullied as children are a lot more likely to have serious mental health issues when they grow up.
For the study, researchers surveyed kids between the ages of 9 and 16 about their experiences with bullying and then followed up with mental health evaluations at various points until some of them were 26.
The kids who had been "pure victims" of childhood bullying were at a far higher risk of developing an anxiety order.
Kids who had been bullied and had also bullied other kids had an even greater risk of developing depression and anxiety disorders. Six percent of people who were never bullied developed an anxiety disorder in adulthood compared with 24 percent of people who had been bullied as children and 32 percent of people who were both bullied by other kids and had done some bullying of others.
Former victims of bullies are also at greater risk of committing suicide when they are adults.
Former childhood bullies had a four times greater risk of developing antisocial personality disorder – meaning they lack empathy and mistreat others – when they grew up.
The researchers say that some of the adult psychiatric problems directly stemmed from the childhood bullying and were not caused by problems at home or by a genetic predisposition.
None of this is all that surprising. I've seen other studies that say that some victims of bullying have symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.
Childhood bullying can be every bit as physically and emotionally damaging as domestic violence in the household. Maybe it is more damaging in some cases since the victim is a child without the ability to remove himself from the situation or the life experience to counteract some of the messages he receives from other kids about his perceived worthlessness. There's a movie called "Bully" that documents the experiences of bullied school children that I think every kid ought to see. It is now out on DVD and on sale in department stores.
However, this study is yet another reminder to take kids seriously when they complain about bullies at school or on social media and for parents, teachers and school administrators to do everything in their power to put a stop to school bullying, for the sake of both the victim and the bully himself.
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