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New Study: Kids Don't "Outgrow" Impact of Bullying

Bullied children are more likely to grow into adults with anxiety disorders and depression.   Courtesy of: JAMA Psychiatry
February 21. 2013
Bullied children are more likely to grow into adults with anxiety disorders and depression. Courtesy of: JAMA Psychiatry

CHICAGO - Those who think bullying is something children "grow out of" may want to think again.

A new study from Duke University found that bullying increases the risk of anxiety and depressive disorders for decades after the incidents. The researchers followed more than 1,000 children for up to 20 years and found victims of bullying - and the bullies - much more likely to wind up with severe problems as adults.

The lead author of the study, Dr. William Copeland, an associate profesor of psychiatry at Duke, said one group was particularly troubled: those who had reacted to being bullied by bullying others.

"The males were at 18 times higher risk of suicidality," he said. "The females were at 26 times higher risk of agoraphobia. Males and females were at 14 times higher risk of having panic disorder."

Many of those who had been victims and had not turned to bullying now are dealing with depression, anxiety, panic disorders and fear of being out in public, Copeland said.

Loyola University psychiatrist Dr. Angelos Halaris said some parents don't realize how much harm bullying can do to a child, and sometimes their response to that child is not helpful.

"The child should not get the message from the parent that, 'Oh, it's just ridiculous. Don't worry about it. You'll get over it,' because that disappoints the child and makes the child feel that the parent is not really understanding."

Bullying doesn't only lead to problems for the victims. The study found that bullies who had not been victimized themselves were much more likely to develop antisocial personality disorders as adults - and they had a high risk of suicide. Halaris said the study reinforces the seriousness of the issue.

"Bullying behavior - whether you deliver, administer the bullying behavior or you are a recipient of it - is not just a harmless fad that's going to go away as the kid grows older," he said.

Both Halaris and Copeland recommended early intervention as a way to prevent problems later on in life.

The study, which appears in the online issue of JAMA Psychiatry, is available online at More information for parents is at

Mary Anne Meyers, Public News Service - IL