Effects Of Bullying Carry Over Into Adulthood [Study]

Megan Charles - Author

Jun. 16 2013, Updated 11:22 p.m. ET

The effects of childhood bullying carry over into adulthood according to a new study.

A comprehensive study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) of Psychiatry focused on the long-term consequences of childhood bullying and its association to adult psychiatric outcomes.

Bullies and those bullied alike are susceptible to develop psychiatric problems as adults. A childhood of peer bullying has a profound effect on the overall mental and emotional development for both perpetrators and victims.

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A total of 1,420 participants, composed of bullies and those bullied between the ages of 9 and 16 from West North Carolina, were studied. The subjects were grouped into four categories of bullies only, victims only, bullies and victims, or neither. They were assessed four to six times. Upon each assessment, both children and their caregivers were asked if the child had bullied or been a victim of bullying in the course of three months.

Only peer-to-peer bullying in schools was assessed in this study. Cyber bullying was not directly addressed. Participants were reevaluated in young adulthood. The research concluded the effects of being emotionally and physically tormented or doling out the torment are pleiotropic and persistent.

It was determined psychological damage carried over into adulthood from childhood bullying, manifesting in terms of depression, antisocial personality disorders, and suicidal preoccupations.

Victims of bullying were 4.3 times more likely to develop anxiety disorders as adults compared to the other groups. Bullies who were victims themselves were especially predisposed (14.5 times) to develop panic disorders and (4.8 times) depression.

As adults, men who were both bullies and bullied were 18.5 times more likely to entertain suicidal thoughts. Women who’d been bullied and were bullies were found to be 26.7 times more susceptible of developing agoraphobia. Agoraphobia is an anxiety disorder associated with the paralyzing fear of being outside or in open spaces.

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