You've heard the horror stories about victims of terrible bullying online and in school. Only occasionally do those anecdotes extend beyond childhood, but a new study shows that the effects of bullying can be felt long after kids have left school and entered adulthood.
A study, performed by researchers at the University of Warwick and Duke University and published in Psychological Science, examined 1,420 children at multiple points in their lives between the ages of 9 and 16, and between 24 and 26. Participants fell into three groups: victims, bullies and victims who were also bullies. And the findings were pretty surprising: While all those involved in bullying felt some social and health effects later in life (problems maintaining relationships, holding steady jobs and managing money), the bully-victims had it the worst. They were a whopping six times more likely to develop serious health problems or psychiatric disorders compared to those who had no part in bullying.
But, let's back up a second. How do kids become bully-victims in the first place? If you break it down, it makes sense and just shows how, if left unaddressed, bullying can spread. If a child doesn't know how to deal with the emotional turmoil of bullying, sometimes the only way to combat it is to take it up themselves—and so the cycle continues.
While this study shows the long-term effects, we're no stranger to hearing about what bullying can lead to (victims are two-and-a-half times more likely to think about suicide). But perhaps now that we know how far it extends beyond the classroom, parents can be more proactive about talking with their children, building up their self-esteem and making sure they know you're always there to listen.