Researchers examined data on about 11,000 twins born in England and
Wales from 1994 to 1996. The youth completed assessments on their
exposure to bullying when they were 11 and 14 years old, and they
had mental health evaluations when they were 11 and 16 years old.
At age 11, kids who reported bullying were more likely than children
who weren’t victims of peer victimization to report anxiety,
depression, hyperactivity, inattention and conduct problems, the
Some effects appeared to diminish over time, however. After five
years, there no longer appeared to be a link between bullying and
anxiety, but an association persisted for issues like cognitive
disorganization and paranoid thoughts.
“Most children will get better,” said Judy Silberg, author of an
accompanying editorial and a researcher at Virginia Commonwealth
University in Richmond.
But it would be a mistake to assume all psychological problems
associated with childhood bullying go away by age 16, Silberg said
“There is a proportion of children who continue to have problems,”
Silberg said. “Population studies demonstrate a persistent pattern
of adverse effects, particularly in depression, anxiety and suicidal
behavior as far as adulthood in those that have been bullied in
For the current study, researchers focused on twins because this
might help minimize the chances that genetics or other factors like
home life are influencing the impact of bullying on kids, Jean-Baptiste
Pingault of University College London in the U.K. and his colleagues
note in JAMA Psychiatry.
Because reports of mental health problems appeared to lessen as
years passed after bullying incidents occurred, the authors conclude
that children may be resilient and able to rebound from this type of
mistreatment and suggest that parents and schools should focus
resources on fostering resilience.
[to top of second column]
The study wasn’t a controlled experiment designed to prove how long
the effects of childhood bullying can last, however, and it’s
possible certain children may still have long-term psychological
problems after being victimized as kids, the authors acknowledge.
“The effects of bullying at age 11 on anxiety and depression at age
16 is what diminishes,” said Bonnie Leadbeater, a psychology
researcher at the University of Victoria in British Columbia,
Canada, who wasn’t involved in the study.
“You cannot interpret this as supporting a more general statement
that the effects of bullying lessen over time,” Leadbeater said by
Because the study only assessed bullying and mental health at two
points in time, it doesn’t provide a complete picture of how these
two things may be related, Leadbeater said.
“Bullying may be episodic or chronic, and the limited assessment of
bullying may severely underestimate the effects of chronic bullying
on mental health and behavioral problems,” Leadbeater added.
SOURCES: http://bit.ly/2ybPQ60 and http://bit.ly/2zeYOj3 JAMA
Psychiatry, online October 4, 2017.
[© 2017 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2017 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.