By Kristen Fritz
“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”
Most of us have heard this popular phrase and many have probably used it at some point. Used as a common defense mechanism, does it actually hold true to its meaning? According to a recent study, the answer is no.
Results of a bullying study showed that victims of bullying at school, including bullies themselves, are not only more likely to experience psychiatric problems in their childhood, but can have lingering issues into their adulthood as well. To date, this has been the most comprehensive effort to establish the long-term consequences of childhood bullying, according to experts.
The study followed 1,420 subjects from Western North Carolina who were assessed four to six times between the ages of 9 and 16. Researchers asked both the children and their primary caregivers if they had been bullied or had bullied others in the three months before each assessment. Participants were divided into four groups: bullies, victims, bullies who also were victims and children who were not exposed to bullying at all.
Participants were then assessed again in their adulthood and researchers found that victims of bullying in childhood were 4.3 times more likely to have an anxiety disorder as adults, compared to those with no history of bullying or being bullied.
Bullies who were also victims were particularly troubled: they were 14.5 times more likely to develop panic disorder as adults, compared to those who did not experience bullying, and 4.8 times more likely to experience depression. Men who were both bullies and victims were 18.5 times more likely to have had suicidal thoughts in adulthood, compared to the participants who had not been bullied or were perpetrators. Their female counterparts were 26.7 times more likely to have developed agoraphobia, compared to children not exposed to bullying.
In the news article, William E. Copeland, lead author of the study and an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Duke University Medical Center says, “Bullying is not a harmless rite of passage, but inflicts lasting psychiatric damage on a par with certain family dysfunctions. The pattern we are seeing is similar to patterns we see when a child is abused or maltreated or treated very harshly within the family setting.”
If you know someone who needs help with bullying, check out the Anti-Bullying sections on TeenCentral.Net and ParentCentral.Net.