Childhood bullying: more harmful than you think

girls soccerA new study reveals that children exposed to bullying during childhood are more likely to develop psychiatric disorders in adulthood, regardless of whether they are victims or perpetrators.

The research team examined the victims of bullying, the bullies themselves, and those who fall into both categories.

While victims of bullying were more likely to develop agoraphobia (abnormal fear of crowded or public spaces), general anxiety and panic disorder in young adulthood, bullies showed a tendency to develop an anti-social personality disorder. Men who were both bullies and victims were 18.5 times more likely to have suicidal thoughts in adulthood compared to those who had not been bullied or perpetuators. Their female counterparts were 26.7 times more likely to develop agoraphobia.

“Bullying simply cannot be seen as a harmless, inevitable part of growing up,” Professor Dieter Wolke of the University of Warwick concludes. “Bullying can be easily assessed and monitored by health professionals and school personnel… Understanding the impact of bullying on both the individual, whether victim or perpetrator, and on society as a whole, means we must promote (such) interventions to help reduce human suffering and provide a safer environment for children to grow up in.”

Some tips for parents:

1) Teach your children early on what is inappropriate behaviour (e.g. pushing, teasing, being mean to others) as well as appropriate behaviour (e.g. taking turns, empathizing, sharing, etc.).

2) Do your children know how to recognize bullying? Bullying isn’t just physical violence. Bullying includes threatening someone, laughing at them, starting nasty rumours about them, taunting them or not letting them hang out with you or your friends. Children need to know from a young age that it is not OK or tolerable for them to bully, be bullied, or stand by and watch other kids be bullied.

3) If your children are being bullied (or see someone being bullied), they can tell you or a trusted adult (e.g. teacher) until they get help. They can also stop, ignore the bully and walk away. Sometimes they will need to avoid the bully by sitting away from the bully in class or taking an alternate route home.

4) As parents, talk with and listen to your children everyday. Ask questions about their school day, including experiences on the way to and from school, lunch, and recess. Ask about their peers. Children who feel comfortable talking to their parents before they are involved in bullying are more likely to get them involved after.

5) Be a good role model. If your children hear you talking in a mean or abusive way (to waiters, other drivers, domestic helpers, etc.), they will think it is OK. Set a good example for your children.

6) If your child is suddenly doing poorly in school, withdrawing from activities or people, having trouble sleeping and/ or complaining of physical ailments, it is important to find out the underlying cause. If these are the effects of being bullied (or bullying), seek appropriate professional help.

SOURCE: University of Warwick (This study was published in Online First by JAMA Psychiatry)

2 thoughts on “Childhood bullying: more harmful than you think

  1. Educational post! I have just written a post on bullying at work – the topic doesn’t seem to receive enough acknowledgement!…Does bullying still even exist when you’re an adult? Have a read and please voice your opinion on the topic! Thanks

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