Bullying linked to psychological problems for both victims and bullies

Teasing and taunting may be part of the childhood experience, but new research suggests the effects of bullying may last much longer.

A study at Duke University found that both bullies and their victims were more likely to have psychological problems as adults and that family hardships were usually present for both types of children.

Anxiety, depression and suicidal thinking

Duke psychiatry professor William E. Copeland carried out the study, dividing adult participants into three groups: those that had been bullies as kids, those that had been victims of bullying as kids and those that had been both bullies and victims (bully-victims).

Bullies were found to be more prone to antisocial personality disorder, while victims had a greater risk for depression and anxiety. People who were bully-victims were shown to have the most severe psychological problems, with the highest levels of anxiety, depression and suicidal thinking as adults.

Family influences

The research team also found that family influences such as divorced parents, arguing in the home, abuse, neglect or lack of supervision were more present in the three groups of bullies, victims and bully-victims than in people who had not experienced bullying at all.

Even after accounting for family hardships, victims still showed high risk for anxiety disorders, while bully-victims still showed both anxiety and depression.

Copeland says that bullying can change a child's ability to respond appropriately to stress, making it difficult for the child to not develop early signs of psychological dysfunction.

“It was definitely the case that chronic bullying led to worse outcomes, but much more the case that being a bully-victim was associated with really significant problems,” Copeland told Slate.com. "The biggest cry for help is coming from that group. Fortunately, it’s a smaller number than victims overall.”

The study can be found online in JAMA Psychiatry.

Source: Slate
Image courtesy of Ambro/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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