This won’t be a very popular article, but people should be aware of the problems that can develop from constant bullying among children. The effects of bullying were the subject of a new study, which goes on to show that childhood bullying must be stopped before it escalates. In fact, it is an absolute must. And now we have the reasons why.
A new study called Prospective Study of Peer Victimization in Childhood and Psychotic Symptoms in a Nonclinical Population at Age 12 Years (Abstract | Full Text), published in the Archives of General Psychiatry, followed more than 6,400 children in Bristol, England over six years. They were evaluated each year from ages seven to thirteen. The results highlight the consequences of childhood bullying, and why simply tolerating it is not an option. Children who were constantly victimized by their peers at ages eight or ten were at least twice as likely to have psychotic symptoms by adolescence.
Because many people might define bullying differently, they defined bullying as negative actions by one or more students with the intention to hurt. The children, their parents and teachers reported whether the child had been bullied by peers. The children also had annual visits, at which time interviewers rated the children on whether they experienced psychotic symptoms, such as hallucinations, delusions or thought disorders at any time during the previous six months.
Results showed that 46% of children were bullied at either age 8 or 10. By about age 13, 5.6% of the children had one or more psychotic symptoms definitely present. On top of that 11.5%-13.7% of the children had one or more psychotic symptoms suspected or definitely present.
Regardless of other risk factors, such as other mental illnesses, family circumstances, or the child’s IQ, bullied children were approximately twice as likely to have psychotic symptoms in adolescence. As the severity or chronic nature of the bullying increased, the strength of the symptoms grew stronger.
The authors of the study note that possible explanations may very well be that the chronic stress of childhood bullying stimulates a genetic predisposition to schizophrenia to trigger psychotic symptoms. Another possibility is that it may also alter how the brain processes and responds to stress.