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Childhood bullying leads to long-term mental health problems

The study indicates that bullying by one child (or a group of children) to another is worse than the mental abuse of a strict parent to a child. This outcome is based on a study of children in the U.S. and U.K.

Once children become teenagers, the mental health issues they carry include anxiety, depression, self-harm and suicidal thinking and behavior. There rates, perhaps controversially, are described as at least as high as victims of child abuse and bullying by adults.

These inferences were drawn from an analysis of 4,026 participants in the U.K. ALSPAC study and 1,273 participants from the U.S. Great Smoky Mountain Study. In both groups, it was found that mental health problems were significantly more likely in children who were bullied by their peers than in kids who were abused.

The study was carried out by psychologist Dieter Wolke of the University of Warwick (U.K.). The study findings have been reported to the journal Lancet Psychiatry, in a paper headed “Adult mental health consequences of peer bullying and maltreatment in childhood: two cohorts in two countries.”

Discussing the findings in a research note, Professor Wolke states: “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 terms of longer term policy changes, the research indicates that in both the U.K. and the U.S. that current response to child maltreatment, abuse and bullying is inadequate. One of the reason is the fragmented nature of both services.

Commenting on the findings in The Guardian, Jennifer Wild, associate professor of experimental psychology, University of Oxford stated: “The findings are important because they highlight the devastating consequences of bullying and the need for zero tolerance programmes.”

Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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