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Study: The Bullying-effect Lasts for 20 Years...Maybe More?

ILLUSTRATION: A new study finds bullied children are more likely to grow into adults with anxiety disorders and depression. Image courtesy of: JAMA Psychiatry
ILLUSTRATION: A new study finds bullied children are more likely to grow into adults with anxiety disorders and depression. Image courtesy of: JAMA Psychiatry
February 22, 2013

BALTIMORE – Those who think bullying is something kids "grow out of" may want to think again.

The latest Internet form of bullying happening in Maryland is on so-called "confession" pages on Facebook.

And a new study from Duke University found that bullying increases the risk of anxiety and depressive disorders for decades after the incidents.

Researchers found that victims of bullying, and the bullies themselves, were much more likely to wind up with severe problems as adults.

William Copeland, the study’s author, says one group was particularly troubled – those who had reacted to being bullied by then becoming bullies.

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

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

Child psychologist Rochelle Harris says some parents don't realize how much harm bullying can do to a child, and sometimes their response to that child is not helpful.

"I've heard all kinds of responses from the 'you don't have to take it go back and punch them,' to the 'just ignore, pretend it doesn't happen,'” she says. “Ignoring is a really sophisticated skill that's difficult for everyone, much less a child."

The study appears in the online issue of JAMA Psychiatry.


Deborah Courson Smith/Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - MD