According to scientists being bullied as a child is worse for a person’s mental health than suffering abuse or neglect. Youngsters who face bullying at school are nearly five times more likely to suffer anxiety and almost twice as likely to have depression or self-harm at 18 than children who are maltreated, says a study.
Scientists claim youngsters who are both maltreated and bullied have an increased risk of mental health problems, however, the risk was not higher than those who are only bullied. Furthermore, being abused or neglected, but not bullied, was not linked with any increased risk of psychological problems, they state.
Professor Dieter Wolke, a psychologist at Warwick University, said: ‘Since one-in-three children worldwide report being bullied, and it’s clear bullied children have similar or worse mental health problems later in life to those who are maltreated, more needs to be done to address this imbalance. ‘Until now governments have focused their efforts and resources on family maltreatment rather than bullying. ‘Moreover it’s vital schools, health services and other agencies work together to tackle bullying.’
In the study around 5,500 children were analyzed. This is the first study that directly compares the effects of maltreatment by adults and bullying by peers on mental health outcomes, including anxiety, depression, self-harm and suicidal tendencies. The study was then published in The Lancet Psychiatry.
4,026 youngsters were analyzed from the UK Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC). Parents of the children provided information on maltreatment between the ages of 8 weeks and 8.6 years and their child’s reports of bullying when they were eight, ten and 13. Furthermore, it analyzed 1,420 children from the Great Smoky Mountain Studies (GSMS) in the US who reported information on maltreatment and bullying between the ages of 9 and 16
According to Professor Wolke this is the first study to compare the long-term mental health outcomes of child maltreatment by adults with being bullied by peers. The study found that children who were bullied by peers only were more likely to have overall mental health problems, anxiety, depression and self-harm or have considered suicide than those who were neither bullied nor maltreated. Furthermore, it found that youngsters who were both maltreated and bullied were also at increased risk for mental health problems but the effects were not higher than those of being bullied alone.
In the end the study concluded that being bullied by peers had worse long-term adverse effects on young adults’ mental health than being maltreated by adults. Professor Wolke added: ‘The insufficiency of resources for bullying compared with those for family maltreatment requires attention.’ ‘It is important for schools, health services and other agencies to coordinate their responses to bullying and research is needed to assess policies and processes that work across these agencies. ‘Future studies of maltreatment should take into account the effects of peer bullying.’
FACTORS SUCH AS BULLYING, SEXUAL PRESSURES AND 24/7 ONLINE LIFESTYLE ARE RAISING RISK OF EMOTIONAL PROBLEMS AMONG SCHOOLGIRLS