Babies and children * Young people

Bullying affects childrens long term mental health

bullying can affect children for many years afterwards. Bullied children at risk of developing psychotic symptoms later in life

Children who are constantly bullied at school are up to four times more likely to develop psychotic-like symptoms such as hallucinations and delusions by the time they reach adolescence, according to new research published in the Archives of Psychiatry.

Psychologists from the University of Warwick studied 6,437 children, average age 12.9 years to find out if bullying sffected childrens mental health later in life. All participating children took part in yearly physical and psychologcal tests from the age of 7. Parents filled in regular questionnaires on their child's health and development from birth. At each visit children were rated on whether they had experienced any psychotic symptoms such as hallucinations, delusions or thought disorders such as thinking they were being spied on. Reports of bullying by parents, teachers and the children themselves were also recorded.

The researchers reported a total of 46.2 percent of children bullied at either ages 8 or 10 by their peers.

'Chronic victimisation' where bullying continued over a number of years was found in 13.7 percent of children when interviewed at ages 8 and 10, and 'severe victimisation' where children had been physically and emotionally bullied, occurred in 5.2% of the children at aged 10.

Furthermore, children who were the victims of physical or emotional bullying were found to be twice as likely to develop psychotic symptoms by early adolescence, compared to children who were not bullied. But if they experienced constant bullying over a number of years the risk increased up to four times. This was found to be the case regardless of the child's family circumstances, IQ or other mental illnesses.

Professor of Developmental Psychology Dieter Wolkes said:

“Our research shows that being victimised can have serious effects on altering perception of the world, such as hallucinations, delusions or bizarre thoughts where the person’s insight into why this is happening is reduced”

“This indicates that adverse social relationships with peers is a potent risk factor for developing psychotic symptoms in adolescence and may increase the risk of developing psychosis in adulthood.”

This article was published on Tue 5 May 2009

Image © Mikael Damkier -

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