Georgianna Dolan-Reilly, LMSW

Georgianna Dolan-Reilly, LMSW

Social Justice Solutions | Staff Writer
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Do the Effects of Bullying Last into Adulthood?

The results of a  new study, discussed in this New York Times Article, suggest that bullying in childhood has lasting effects into adulthood.

“The study followed 1,420 subjects from Western North Carolina who were assessed four to six times between the ages of 9 and 16. Researchers asked both the children and their primary caregivers if they had been bullied or had bullied others in the three months before each assessment. Participants were divided into four groups: bullies, victims, bullies who also were victims, and children who were not exposed to bullying at all.

Participants were assessed again in young adulthood — at 19, 21 and between 24 and 26 — using structured diagnostic interviews.”

The study had several interesting findings:

1. Bullying victims were 4.3 times as likely to have anxiety disorders in adulthood than their non-bullying or non-bullied counter parts.

2. Those who were bullies and also the target of bullying were most at risk, as they were 14.5 times more likely to develop panic disorder as adults, compared to those who did not experience bullying, and 4.8 times more likely to experience depression.

3. Males who were bullies and victims were 18.5 times more likely to have had suicidal thoughts in adulthood, compared to the participants who had not been bullied or perpetrators.

4. Females who were bullies and victims were 26.7 times more likely to have developed agoraphobia, compared to children not exposed to bullying.

5. Bullies who were not also victims were 4.1 times more likely to have antisocial personality disorder as adults than those never exposed to bullying in their youth.

The study accounted for pre-existing psychiatric conditions, as well as other factors that could account for psychiatric issues, and still the effects of bullying appear to last into adulthood. The study did not however account for the frequency of bullying, or the type of bullying (overt vs. covert) in respects to lasting effects and also did not look at bullying outside of the school settings. This is a great start to showing that bullying is far from an acceptable piece of childhood. As the article states:

“Bullying is not a harmless rite of passage, but inflicts lasting psychiatric damage on a par with certain family dysfunctions, Dr. Copeland said. “The pattern we are seeing is similar to patterns we see when a child is abused or maltreated or treated very harshly within the family setting.”

Written By Georgianna Reilly, LMSW
SJS Staff Writer

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