Impact of childhood bullying still evident after 40 years

Negative impact of bullying was found to be persistent and pervasive, with health, social and economic consequences lasting well into adulthood

The negative social, physical and mental health effects of childhood bullying are still evident nearly 40 years later, according to new research by King’s College London. The study is the first to look at the effects of bullying beyond early adulthood, and is published in the American Journal of Psychiatry.

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.

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

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.

Individuals who were bullied in childhood were more likely to have poorer physical and psychological health and cognitive functioning at age 50. Individuals who were frequently bullied in childhood were at an increased risk of depression, anxiety disorders, and suicidal thoughts.

Individuals who were bullied in childhood were also more likely to have lower educational levels, with men who were bullied more likely to be unemployed and earn less. Social relationships and well-being were also affected. Individuals who had been bullied were less likely to be in a relationship, to have good social support, and were more likely to report lower quality of life and life satisfaction.

Professor Louise Arseneault, senior author, also from the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s adds: “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.”

Bullying is characterized by repeated hurtful actions by children of a similar age, where the victim finds it difficult to defend themselves. The harmful effect of bullying remained even when other factors including childhood IQ, emotional and behavioural problems, parents’ socioeconomic status and low parental involvement, were taken into account.

Professor Arseneault adds: “40 years is a long time, so there will no doubt be additional experiences during the course of these young people’s lives which may either protect them against the effects of bullying, or make things worse. Our next step is to investigate what these are.”

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39 thoughts on “Impact of childhood bullying still evident after 40 years”

  1. Bulling is a problem. The effects of bulling can be seen on adults years after they have been build. Bulling young children can affect the child’s development.

    Bullying causes excess stress and anxiety. Long term effects thereof can contribute to poor social skills, problems adjusting to change and psychological disorders. These factors in turn can potentially effect employment, social status and overall physical and mental health.

    Steps to prevent bulling of children should be taken. Bulling can have a serious negative effect on children that cannot be taken lightly or be seen as the social norm because damage to the child can be serious and unrepairable

  2. I agree with the opinion that the effect of bullying is still evident in a person, after so many years. But the extent of the effects varies from person to person. Some people will have a lonely lifestyle, with no real stable relationships. They will probably never get married and have minimal friendships. The reason for this is because the image they had of themselves got destroyed, up to the point where they also began to see themselves as worthless and ‘not good enough’. These people will regard themselves as inferior to others and according to themselves; they will never ‘measure up’. In contrast though, there are also people whose lives change completely, but in a more positive way. Some people who were bullied as children turn out to be much stronger. They change their mindset in such a way that they become tough. These are often the people that change the lives of other by becoming public speakers and making parents and educators aware of bullying and thus trying to limit it. These people make a difference in the lives of their own family, because they are more likely to teach their children that bullying is wrong and also how to react, if they were the ones to be bullied. Therefore I agree that bullying still reflects in the life of the victim at a later state, but it can be interpreted to have a positive effect on the victim and others.

  3. Bullying,a stage in a child’s life that is taken lightly because everyone believes it is just a “phase” that will blow over sooner or later. Being bullied is sometimes an inevitable part of growing up. The sooner people realize this the quicker it will be to find solutions via programs aimed at intervening and preventing bullying. It is very important that people understand the repercussions of this so-called phase.

    The impacts of bullying are “persistent and pervasive”. This can lead to negative health,social and economic consequences visible in adulthood. Impacts of bullying are very serious and people that were bullied may not realize that they still carry the burdens of being bullied even as adults. Necessary measures should be implemented to try and eliminate bullying.

  4. I believe that one of the biggest reasons why bullying affects kids for such a long time is not having the proper support from their parents and all those around them. A proper foundation of communication between children and their parents is very essential and will allow them to have a place where they can offload and feel safe rather than bottle everything up and believing that it is normal to be bullied ,it would be close to impossible to try and completely eliminate bullying, especially in schools because there will always be that one kid who tries to make him/herself feels better by belittling other kids thus the best thing that can be done is to teach kids how to handle being bullied ,not to physically fight back but they can rather be taught how they can overcome the emotional effects that come with being bullied, that way instead of living their lives holding on to fear they can actually outgrow it.

  5. Bullying deprives most of the young kids the ability to have their own opinions in the society, but to help all parties it is wise to look into the reasons as to why some of these kids feel the need to bully others. Perhaps the problem lies in the environment in which they are raised. Some of the children who are bullies come from families were they are abused and they tend to take out their anger on other vulnerable children and if help is not provided ,the same children grow up with that anger and the cycle goes on and on

  6. I have really learnt a lot from the article since I did not know about the effects bullying has in later stage of life.I thing more awareness need to be made based on bullying and people need to take bullying seriously and not just taking it as one of those things that are normal and just passes.Wow I have also learnt more interesting stuff from all of you guys who have commented.I just hope that this bullying matter can be followed more seriously and help those who are affected and vulnerable of bullying and those who bully others.

  7. With today’s well established social networks and ideas of who one should be, bullying is basically inevitable, as sad as it is. You should think with all the “be yourself” slogans going around from clothing to food and everything in between products, an unique individual with different perspectives on life and living should be left alone to walk his or her unique path. But no, they are harassed and pushed to breaking points until they change to “fit in”. This leaves scares on their very souls and carried with them for the rest of their life. It has a influence on how they think and do which is almost always not the best thing. A person start growing a seed of hatred towards the world because they were told they were wrong, even before they had a chance to understand and find their own way.

    Yes, it is not right to coddle your child and go to war every time they feel mistreated. But it is wrong to ignore when your child is being bullied and their very identity is at stake. Parents should choose these battles wisely because it can stop your child from carrying deep hurt for the rest of their life.

  8. As more studies and reports on childhood bullying become available , it is evident that we underestimate the long term effects whether it is, social, mental, or physical on a person. Bullying is not only limited to school and friends but can happen in the house where a child grows up.

    Although the later effects is evident on people been bullied in childhood it is also required to understand why a child that is mentally or physically bullied at home becomes a bully at school. It is therefore so important to create awareness for parents to realise effects of actions not only on the future of their children but also on other children.

    To stop the cycle it is necessary not only to treat the effect but to stop where it originate. To make a difference in the community socially and educationally it is required to empower those in position to identify and be able to deal with the problem early before it has an effect later in their lives.

  9. I strongly agree that being bullied does not only affect you the moment you are being bullied but it also has a negative impact at a later stage. Most people who were bullied have a lack of confidence and they think they are not worthy which at some point can lead to suicide.Some of them dropped out of school because they were trying to run away from being bullied by other children,so they ended up not being educated simply because of being bullied. As an article says, bullying can also cause an individual not to have a stable relationship when he grows up because they become violent in a relationship which makes them feel powerful.
    We can fight against bullying and fighting against it begins at home. Parents must forbid their children from watching violence on television because children like doing what they see on t.v. They must also avoid fighting physically at home especially in front of kids because kids are going to think that beating other people is the right thing to do. At school, children who are bullied must not be afraid to report it to the teachers so that it can be stopped at an earlier stage.
    This is a very serious matter and i hope it is going to be addressed.

  10. (u14005957)
    I’m curious whether the study gives the statistics related to this research…? Does bullying increase your chances of having these issues by 5% or 50%? Without some kind of context, this article actually tells us nothing. We need statistics to show how pervasive this problem really is, because realistically, in forty years so much could have happened to contribute to these ‘symptoms’ that a small variation between samples could be disregarded. But if the correlation between bullying and long-term problems is strong, then further study is definitely required. For instance, could simple therapy fix the problem?
    Another issue I have with this study (as it is explained in this article – I have not examined the actual report of the study) is that the sample seems to be inherently flawed. The parents were asked if they’re children were bullied, rather than cutting directly to the source. I’m not an expert, but I suspect a vast number of bullied children hide it from their parents, which means that many victims of bullying would be excluded from the sample. Although this could be harmless, a deeper problem of bias may arise. For instance, if a child is unusually small, his parents will be more concerned and involved in whether or not he is bullied. But if the captain of a rugby team suffers psychological bullying, there’s a good chance that his parents and teachers will miss it due to his perceived status. This could push the sample in the direction of people who are naturally more insecure, and have more struggles in life. For this reason, I’m not sure how reliable this study actually is.
    That being said, bullying is a serious problem that clearly causes problems – at the least, in the short term – and studies such as these are very necessary. This can definitely be used as a good foundation for now examining the extent of the problem; how much of a forty-year old’s problems stem from bullying in school, and how much is just a consequence of life?

  11. I honestly found this article to be rather insightful. People who are bullied in their childhood suffer with neurological and psychological traumas later on in their lives. It completely changes them and has adverse impacts on their future endeavours. The everyday life of a bullied victim is a painful acceptance that never seems to fade away. Children who are bullied between the ages of 7-11 suffer the torments of scarring, only around the age of 50.These children have also proven to be future bullies in parenthood, interpersonal relationships and in marriages. A few hurtful words of agony and despair can impair a young developing mind, into a cold-hearted monster later on in life.

    Personally I feel that bullied victims should realize their hurtful childhood as a lesson for change, by attending counseling or surrounding yourself with healthy people. Growing up I’ve noticed that my parents resorted to other measures of punishment, rather than bullying. I am eternally grateful for their hospitality. Bullying can alter a child’s destiny, but we as individuals can bring about a change!

  12. A particularly interesting fact that has not yet been mentioned in previous comments, is that the children selected were all of the ages seven and eleven. There is no doubt that these ages fall within a crucial stage of a child’s social and mental development. Bullying will thus have a direct effect on the development of psychological and cognitive abilities, and this can still be evident even years thereafter.

    Bullying causes excess stress and anxiety. Long term effects thereof can contribute to poor social skills, problems adjusting to change and psychological disorders. These factors in turn can potentially effect employment, social status and overall physical and mental health.

    Bullying should certainly not be seen as something that is a “normal” part of life – as it can have severe consequences. The effect that bullying has on children should not be underestimated and precaution should be taken to prevent such an injustice.

  13. A very important aspect that nobody has commented on and is often neglected is the bullies childhood and upbringing. Bullies are often incredibly cruel whether it comes to physical or emotional torment. More often than not children aren’t born to be bullies. They learn from what’s happening at home. They are being emotionally or physically abused and take out their issues on those that they can at school. It doesn’t give them an excuse but is an endless cycle. If that is how you are brought up, then you won’t know any better. When raising awareness on bullies they should also show research on the facts concerning what happens in “bullies” private lives. They should definitely not be excused for their actions, but rather shown the same amount of care as the bullied. Also get the opportunity to see a psychiatrist and get the help that they need. Bullying is often a sign of someone looking for attention and trying to feel better about themselves by dragging others down.

  14. Bullying has been proven to be a serious matter that affects people involved negatively: the person who bullies others and the person who is been bullied. This does not only have short term effects but long term ones too as research has shown in the article.

    These effects for example depression, lack of self-esteem and many others damages a person completely.Take a scenario of a little girl in primary been told that she is not beautiful. Moves to another school, progresses to high school and still been told the same thing. This develops and she starts believing that she is not good enough,this will haunt her for the rest of her life unless reported and dealt with properly.

    Bullying happens for different reasons and under different circumstances, I think people been bullied should reports this before it becomes critical so that the problem can be identified, corrected and stopped.

  15. Bullying is a serious issue around the world. For a study to have been conducted and explained, is a relief. All parents, teachers and older peers should understand the repercussions that this so called “phase” has on ones future. Children should be taught at an early age, that bullying will land them in trouble instead of fame. Just because you are bigger or stronger or smarter than someone else, should not give you the right to bully them. This attribute, if not sorted out, can be taken into adulthood with wealth and race.

    Those who are bullied, as stated in this article, never really get over it. Some may not realize that they are still scarred subconsciously but they carry it through with them their entire lives.

    Everyone needs to be taught of the harmful repercussions that bullying has not only on an individual but on society as a whole.

  16. ‘It’s just a phase of childhood. They will soon get over it’ These words are recited too many times by either parents, teachers or headmasters, relating to bullying. This article proves that this is in fact not the case, and this ‘phase’ will stay with the child for the rest of their lives, negatively affecting all aspects of their well-being.

    Often, playground bullying is looked at as harmless fun, or ‘character-building’, and stopping this sort of bullying is not in high priority, despite the need for it to be. Nowadays, there is a more well known and often heard about form of bulling, cyber bullying. Because of the rapidly increasing technology in today’s times, this form is becoming hard to deal with or to keep under control. It can be limited to posting silly rumours about people on the internet, or it can stretch to the extent of personally identifying victims, and deliberately publishing harmful and humiliating material. There are so many difficulties relating to controlling cyber bullying. For one, it is not, by any means, age limiting. People of any ages can get involved, as on the internet, being anonymous is key to cyber-bullies. Another problem is that, where home used to be a place of safeness for victims of traditional bullying, it is now quite the opposite. Having a phone and computer, means the bully can virtually reach you wherever you are.

    Bullying is a subject that cannot be taken lightly. It is a serious problem in today’s time, and something that urgently needs to be addressed, thereby increasing the chances of children being successful and happy later in life.

  17. Bullying is a problem all around the world and I believe if the British National Child Development Study was to be conducted elsewhere similar results would be evident.

    Bullying is a hard problem to solve and anti-bullying campaigns, schools, teachers and parents can only do so much. The heart of the problem lies within the victims and the friends of the victims who are being bullied/tortured. If schools and parents could find a way to get these victims (and their friends who are aware of whats going on) to open up and tell someone about what they are going through, then perhaps being able to stop the bullying at an early stage and getting some sort of psychological help for the victim will reduce the effects seen as a result of bullying as stated above.

  18. Its heartbreaking to think how the actions of children who act without any knowledge of what they doing, can have such a tremendous,negative effect on the child that is being bullied and taunted. I think that the solution to the problem of bullying in school lies with parents. If parents were to teach their children from a young age how important it is to be sensitive to other people’s feelings and treat other people how they would like to be treated,there would be a significant drop in bullying incidents. This is because the children would be aware of their own feelings and as a result,would know how it would feel if someone were to do such a mean thing to them.

    The fact that the statistics of bullying are still the same now as they were 4 decades ago is alarming because it indicates that there is something that we are missing and not doing in response to the damaging act of bullying. Immediately responding to reports of bullying when a child reports it,will not only protect the child being bullied but will also give the child confidence in knowing that they are being heard and that they matter. This love and reaction will put back some confidence in them that was lost when they were being bullied.

    The moment parents regard bullying as something very serious and its harmful effects and not just dismissing it as part of growing up,will be the day where all these campaigns to stop bullying will actually be effective

  19. Very relevant.
    I can understand why being bullied during a persons youth will affect his/her future happiness, social skills, etc.
    Being bullied does something to a childs soul. That child no longer has confidence in himself/herself and its heartbreaking to know the victims of bullying have to carry that around with them for a lifetime.

    How do we stop bullying? We can start by loving our children, being there for them through the crucial 5 years (many believe that the first 5years are the most important in shaping a child for his/her future) and becareful of how we carry/conduct ourselves out in the world, because our children pick up our bad habits.

    I hope the continued cycle of bullying stops, it has gone on for long enough.

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