Bullying Shouldn’t Be Accepted As A “Normal” Part of Life
As a bullying prevention speaker, keeping up with studies and new findings is an important part of my work. Most recently, I went over a study that was published February 20 in JAMA Psychiatry on the long-term effects of bullying.
Although the lasting impact of childhood bullying has been diminished for decades, written off as a “normal” part of the school experience, this new research indicates that bullying in middle school and bullying in high schools actually has detrimental psychological effects that last well into our adult lives.
The Long-term Effects of Bullying
The study shows that, as adults, students who were bullied were at much higher risk for anxiety disorders, panic disorders, depression, and suicidal behavior. Bullies were at higher risk for antisocial personality disorder.
Lead investigator William E. Copeland, PhD, remarked, “We were surprised at how profoundly bullying affects a person’s long-term functioning. This psychological damage doesn’t just go away because a person grew up and is no longer bullied. This is something that stays with them.”
It’s important to note that the evidence shows both parties are damaged by bullying. Senior author of the study, Jane Costello, PhD, stated, “Bullying is potentially a problem for bullies as well as for victims. [It]…turns out to have the potential for very serious consequences for children, adolescents, and adults.”
Minimize the Effects of Bullying
Fortunately, as investigators concluded, this damage can be minimized by screening for and addressing bullying whenever needed. Interventions can minimize the detrimental effects of bullying, preventing long-term emotional damage from taking place.
“Such interventions are likely to reduce human suffering and long-term health costs and provide a safer environment for children to grow up in,” the authors write.
Such measures include increasing bullying awareness, which can be achieved by partnering with community agencies, or by inviting experienced speakers to present to at-risk students.
This understanding and acknowledgement of bullying is an important first step toward eventually reducing the prevalence of violence in our schools.