The serious effect on adult mental health of one in five child experience.
New research shows that bullying in childhood has a greater effect on adult mental health than parental abuse.
The study, published in The Lancet Psychiatry, revealed very serious results for children bullied.(Lereya et al., 2015)
Professor Dieter Wolke of the Warwick Psychology Department and the Warwick School of Medicine, who led the research, said:
“The mental health outcomes we were looking for included anxiety, depression, or suicidal tendencies.
Our results showed that those who were bullied were more likely to suffer from mental health problems than those who were abused.
Being both bullied and abused also increases the risk of overall health problems, anxiety and depression in both groups. “
While abuse and bullying are known to cause mental health problems later, this study is the first to compare them.
Professor Wolke said:
“Being bullied is not a harmless rite of passage or an inevitable part of growth; it has serious long-term consequences.
It is important that schools, health services and other agencies work together to reduce bullying and its harmful effects. “
The study focused on two groups, one in the United States (1,273 participants) and the other in the United Kingdom (4,026 participants).
In the US group, bullying was assessed between the ages of 9 and 16 and followed between 19 and 25 years.
Abuse meant …
“… Physical, emotional or sexual abuse, or parenthood with multiple sexual adaptations (or both) between 8 weeks and 8 · 6 years …”
In the UK, bullying was assessed at 8, 10 and 13 years of age.
The children were followed at 18 years old.
The results showed that in the United Kingdom:
- 8.5% of children reported being abused only,
- 29.7% reported bullying only,
- and 7% reported both cases of abuse and intimidation
In the USA:
- 15% reported abuse,
- 16.3% reported bullying,
- and 9.8% reported being abused and intimidated.
The authors explain the results:
“When bullying was compared directly with child abuse, bullying by peers had more adverse effects on the overall mental health of young adults or young adults.
The inadequacy of bullying resources compared to those inflicted on family abuse requires special attention.
It is important for schools, health services and other agencies to coordinate their bullying interventions. Research is needed to evaluate these inter-agency policies and processes.