A recent article in JAMA Psychiatry brings to the forefront an ongoing important topic – the long-term effects of childhood bullying, particularly on a person’s mental health. Bullying at a young age puts people at a higher risk for developing depression and other psychiatric conditions requiring treatment by young adulthood compared to people who were not bullied in childhood.
Multiple previous studies have shown a link between childhood bullying and the development of childhood mental health concerns, like low self-esteem, depression, poor academic performance and even an increased risk of suicidal thoughts and suicide. This is one of the first efforts to assess the longer-term effects of childhood bullying.
In the study, children were assessed for involvement with bullying (whether they were bullying others or being bullied by others or both) at age 8, then followed up with in their late teens and early adulthood. What was found was that the patients who were involved with bullying in childhood (whether they were being bullied by others or bullying others) were twice as likely to be receiving treatment for a psychiatric condition compared to the patients who were not involved with bullying in childhood. The group that was involved both in being bullied and being bullies themselves fared the worst – they were three times as likely to be receiving psychiatric treatment and were more likely to have more serious diagnoses like schizophrenia, substance abuse and mood disorders.
It is important to be aware of and address bullying with our pediatric patients. It is particularly important to be aware if a child is involved both as a bully and as a victim, because he is at a higher risk for serious problems both in childhood and adulthood.
Here are some additional resources that you may find helpful with regard to bullying.
https://www.sandiegounified.org/parents-and-guardians-bullying-and-intimidation-facts for information about San Diego Unified School District’s policy on bullying and their online bullying reporting system.
https://www.stopbullying.gov/index.html for information and support on bullying.
http://www.pacer.org/bullying/ for information and support on bullying.
Association of Bullying Behavior at 8 Years of Age and Use of Specialized Services for Psychiatric Disorders by 29 Years of Age; JAMA Psychiatry, Online First, December 9, 2015.