John M. Becker

Bullying Causes Decades of Harm, New Study Shows

Filed By John M. Becker | April 22, 2014 4:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: bullying, bullying prevention, childhood bullying, psychology, school bullying, scientific study, study, victim blaming

gay_bullying.jpgChildhood bullying is so profoundly scarring that its negative social, physical, economic, and mental health effects are measurable for decades to come, a new study finds.

The study, conducted by King's College London and published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, is the first major study that assesses the long-term effects of childhood bullying. Earlier studies have observed the negative consequences of childhood bullying extending into the victim's 20s, but this latest research shows that these consequences persist through middle age.

"Our study shows that the effects of bullying are still visible nearly four decades later," said Dr. Ryu Takizawa, lead author of the paper. "The impact of bullying is persistent and pervasive, with health, social and economic consequences lasting well into adulthood."

King's College London reports:

The findings come from the British National Child Development Study which includes data on all children born in England, Scotland and Wales during one week in 1958. The study published today includes 7,771 children whose parents provided information on their child's exposure to bullying when they were aged 7 and 11. The children were then followed up until the age of 50...

Just over a quarter of children in the study (28%) had been bullied occasionally,and 15% bullied frequently - similar to rates in the UK today.

The study found that adults who were bullied as children were more likely to have poorer physical and psychological health, poorer cognitive functioning, lower educational levels, and lower quality of and satisfaction with life at age 50. They were less likely to be in a relationship or have good social support, and at greater risk of depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts.

Men who experienced childhood bullying were also more likely to be earning less than those who did not, and they also had higher rates of unemployment.

More details are after the jump.

Louise Arseneault, senior study author and professor of psychiatry at King's College, says the study's results utterly obliterate the "kids will be kids" approach to bullying.

"We need to move away from any perception that bullying is just an inevitable part of growing-up. Teachers, parents and policy-makers should be aware that what happens in the school playground can have long-term repercussions for children. Programmes to stop bullying are extremely important, but we also need to focus our efforts on early intervention to prevent potential problems persisting into adolescence and adulthood."

One school that should pay particular attention to this new study is Zeman Elementary School in Lincoln, Nebraska. Last week, fifth-graders were sent home with a flyer containing nine "rules" for how to react to bullying.

nebraska-bullying-flyer-awful.jpgThe flyer's advice is utterly repulsive. For example, students are advised to "learn to laugh at [themselves]" and even "agree with the put-down." Suggested responses include "If you think I'm ugly, you should see my sister!" and "I've know [sic] that for a long time."

Pupils are also admonished to never tell on bullies:

"The number one reason bullies hate their victims, is because the victims tell on them. Telling makes the bully want to retaliate. Tell an adult only when a real injury or crime (theft of something valuable) has occurred. Would we keep our friends if we tattled on them?"

Seriously.

Parents were outraged, and the school quickly apologized and issued what Jezebel calls "a better, far less shitty" anti-bullying fact sheet. But the fact that such utterly repugnant, victim-blaming "advice" ever made it into the hands of children at all shows just how much progress still needs to be made in combating childhood bullying.

h/t: David Badash, The New Civil Rights Movement.

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