According to a new study in the American Journal of Psychiatry, the effects of childhood bullying are “persistent and pervasive, with health, social and economic consequences lasting well into adulthood.” Over 25% of the 7,700 British children in the study had been bullied occasionally, and 15% bullied frequently, which compares to current averages.
The children were followed as they aged, and asked about their mental health, social relationships, quality of life, and professional and economic situations. Even after controlling for childhood IQ, the family’s socioeconomic status, and low parental involvement, people who’d been bullied as children had more problems across life. Being bullied infrequently or frequently was linked to:
- Greater psychological distress
- Greater risk for depression, anxiety, and suicide
- Poorer cognitive function
- Lower educational levels
- Greater likelihood of being unemployed and having a lower salary
- Less likelihood of living with a partner or spouse
- Less likelihood of meeting up with friends or calling on them when ill
The results clearly indicate that we need to take bullying even more seriously, since it’s no different from any other form of child abuse. Community-wide strategies can help identify and support children who are bullied, redirect the behavior of children who bully, and change the attitudes of adults and youth who tolerate bullying behaviors in peer groups, schools, and communities.
Bullying Doesn’t Only Happen At School – Engage Community Partners
Involve organizations and individuals who want to learn about bullying and reduce its impact in the community. Consider involving neighborhood associations, businesses, adults who work directly with kids, parents, and youth, service groups and faith-based organizations. Community members must use their unique strengths and skills to prevent bullying wherever it occurs. For example, youth sports groups may train coaches to prevent bullying. Local businesses may make t-shirts with bullying prevention slogans for an event. After-care staff may read books about bullying to kids and discuss them. Hearing anti-bullying messages from the different adults in their lives reinforces the message for kids that bullying is unacceptable.
- Study community strengths and needs and ask: Who is most affected? Where? What kinds of bullying happen most? How do kids and adults react? What is being done to help? Use opinion surveys, interviews, focus groups and forums with community leaders, businesses, parent groups, and churches to answer these questions and develop a common understanding of the problem.
- Establish a shared vision about bullying in the community, its impact, and how to stop it.
- Identify priority audiences and tailor messages as appropriate.
- Describe what each partner will do to help prevent and respond to bullying.
- Advocate for bullying prevention policies in schools and the community.
- Raise awareness of your message by developing/distributing print materials. Encourage local radio, TV, newspapers, and websites to give PSAs prime space.
- Track progress over time to ensure that you are refining your approach based on solid data.
Takizawa, R., Maughan, B., & Arseneault, L. (2014). Adult Health Outcomes of Childhood Bullying Victimization: Evidence from a 5-Decade Longitudinal British Birth Cohort. American Journal of Psychiatry, A1a:1-8.