Can bullying have long-term consequences?

In the short-term, bullying can result in physical, psychological, emotional, and academic problems.1 Unfortunately, the more children are bullied, the more problematic the outcomes can be.1

A new 2013 study suggests that childhood bullying may even take a toll on children’s health, behavior, relationships, employment, and wealth decades down the road, even after factors like family income and situations, abuse, neglect, and psychological conditions are controlled for.1 Researchers from the University of Warwick and Duke University, analyzed the effects of bullying in a longitudinal study of nearly 1,300 youth, starting from when they were preadolescents and young teens and following them through early adulthood.What they found was that adults who had been bullied as children, as well individuals who had been bullied and had bullied others (“bully-victims”), were less mentally and physically healthy as adults.1 In particular, bully-victims faired the worse: they were more likely to smoke, have a diagnosed psychiatric disorder, and report having “slow recovery from illness,” a “serious illness,” “poor health” and a higher likelihood of getting sick.1

Former victim, bully, and bully-victim status was also correlated with the tendency to be dismissed from jobs, quit jobs, and resign from a position despite being ill-prepared to handle the financial ramifications.1 Childhood victims and bully-victims were also more likely to have lower incomes as adults.1

Moreover, adults who had been victims or bully-victims as children reported more difficulties “making or keeping friends” in adulthood than their peers who no experiences with bullying.1 Finally, adults who had bullied as children, especially those who had never been victims of bullying, were more likely to be engaged in “risky” or illicit activities.1

More research still needs to be conducted to further explore the long-term effects of bullying. In the meantime, it is important for families and educators to consider the potential for bullying to have lasting effects on children’s lives.

References:

  1. Wolke, D., Copeland, W. E., Angold, A., & Costello, E. J. (2013). Impact of bullying in childhood on adult health, wealth, crime, and social outcomes. Psychological science24(10), 1958-1970.

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