The Effects Of Childhood Bullying Last A Lifetime

From Alice G. Walton, Forbes:

A new study in the American Journal of Psychiatry finds what others had hinted at but not quite arrived at: That the effects of childhood bullying can last not only through adolescence and young adulthood, but also through middle age.

 Earlier studies had shown the negative psychological and social effects of bullying to be evident into a person’s 20s, but the new research tracked the psychological health and cognitive function of once-bullied kids till they were 50. And the effects of bullying – particularly of severe bullying – affected a person’s well-being in a great number of ways. All the more reason, the authors urge, to take bullying just as seriously as we would any other form of childhood abuse.

“Our study shows that the effects of bullying are still visible nearly four decades later,” said study author Ryu Takizawa of the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London. “The impact of bullying is persistent and pervasive, with health, social and economic consequences lasting well into adulthood.

The study tracked over 7,700 children whose families were part of the British National Child Development Study, also known as the 1958 Birth Cohort Study, which captures data from all the children born within one week in 1958 in England, Scotland, and Wales. The parents provided information about the children, including any experiences with bullying, when they were 7 and 11 years old.

Over a quarter of the children in the study – 28% – had been bullied occasionally, and 15% bullied frequently, which the authors say is about what it is today.

 The kids were followed as they aged, and asked about their mental health, social relationships, quality of life, and professional and economic situations.

 It turned out that on almost every measure, people who’d been bullied as children had more problems across life. Being bullied either occasionally or frequently was linked to greater psychological distress at age 23 and age 50 – and being bullied frequently as a child was associated with greater risk for depression, anxiety, and suicidality at age 45. It was also linked to poorer cognitive function at age 50, which is a disturbing finding in itself. The authors suggest it may mirror the known link between childhood maltreatment and cognitive function or it could be a sign of early aging, both of which have been indicated by previous studies.

 The team also found that frequent childhood bullying was linked to lower educational levels, a greater likelihood of being unemployed, and having a lower salary at age 50. People who had been bullied as children were also less likely to live with a partner or spouse at that age, less able to call on friends in the case of illness, and even less likely to have met up with friends in the recent past. People who had been bullied as kids were also not only less satisfied with their lives in the present, but they anticipated being less satisfied in the future, compared to non-bullied counterparts.

Read the full article here.