People who are bullied in childhood are reported to be more likely to have mental problems in their adult years than those who have been persecuted by adults, including by their parents.
But this heading is misleading because the figure only reflects the results of research in the United States. Compared to the results of studies in the UK, which included more than three times the number of children, the results were almost not as significant as this.
There are a number of things that are the problems in this research design. Research variables depend only on reports from personal experiences of children and parents, which might make the results less reliable. Parents may underestimate their mistreatment of their children.
Still, the conclusion of the researchers that schools, health institutions, and other institutions must work together in tackling bullying, is a suggestion that must be considered.
If you suspect your child has been a victim of bullying at school, it's important for you both to consult with the school. You can question their anti-bullying policy, which every school should have. The anti-bullying policy will help you review how schools plan to prevent and overcome bullying.
Where did this research come from?
This study was conducted by a number of researchers from the University of Warwick and in collaboration with Duke Medical Center, in the UK.
This research was covered extensively by the media. However, the results that say that children who are bullying are at risk five times more likely to suffer from nervousness (anxiety disorder) compared to children who are victims of adult abuse are considered misleading.
This result is also used in various news articles and media releases, but this number only shows populations in the United States. The results of research from the UK, which involved more than three times the number of children, were almost not as significant as this.
What research is this?
This is a group study that looks at the long-term effects of mental health due to bullying during school and compared to the effects of violence on children carried out by adults.
Researchers report that cases of child abuse, such as neglect, physical and sexual violence, are problems that are of concern to the public. This has been shown to increase the risk of mental disorders, drug abuse, and suicide attempts.
Bullying, both verbally and physically, done by other peers is also a global problem. Reported 1: 3 children in 38 countries are victims of bullying. This can also have the same adverse effects in adulthood.
Researchers aim to find out whether mental disorders are the result of a combination of bullying and violence in children, or whether bullying has other effects on children.
Who is the research conducted in?
This study is based on two major research subject groups on an ongoing basis. One group involved 4,026 children in the UK and another group involving 1,420 children in the United States.
Research in the UK aims to look at children's health and development during childhood and so on. Participants are a number of pregnant women who will have children within the period of birth from April 1991 to December 1992.
In the first trimester, a number of parents will only be given a questionnaire to fill in about themselves and the stage of child development.
Mothers provide information about persecution that occurs between the ages of 8 weeks to 8.6 years, along with reports from their children about the bullying they experienced at ages 8, 10, and 13. The keywords "persecution" are based on physical, emotional , and sexual.
These children are then asked to attend the annual examination clinic, which includes face-to-face interviews and a number of physical tests, starting from the age of 7 years onwards.
Research in the US is based on samples obtained from three groups of children aged 9, 11, and 13 years who were recruited in 1993. These parents and children were continuously interviewed and questioned about the abuse and bullying experienced by the child.
Cruel treatment includes physical, sexual, or sadistic disciplinary acts from parents. These children were examined for behavioral problems and mental disorders until they reached young adulthood.
Researchers control outcomes based on factors that are expected to increase a child's risk of abuse and bullying, including the child's sex, family difficulties, and the mother's mental health. In a British group study, participants were observed for the possibility of these factors during the mother's pregnancy. Whereas in studies in the US, participants (children and parents) were observed through annual interviews.
Then, what is the result?
In a US group study, bully victims had a fivefold risk of suffering from anxiety disorder than children who were persecuted.
The British group study states that children who are bully victims are more susceptible to suffering from depression and self-harm than those who experience domestic violence.
The US study shows that groups of children who are victims of adult violence but who are not bully victims are four times more prone to depression in adulthood when compared to a group of children who are not abused or bullied.
In the UK study group, children who were victims of adult violence but not bully victims did not show an increased risk of mental disorders than children who were not abused or bullied.
The results of the two study groups prove that children whose childhoods are victims of parental violence and who are also targets of bullying in their schools show an increased risk of suffering from mental disorders, anxiety disorder and depression when compared to those who are not bullied or persecuted . In British children, in particular, there is a risk of self-harm.
Furthermore, the two study groups proved that children who are victims of bullying but not victims of domestic violence are more prone to mental disorders than children who are victims of abuse but not targets of bullying.
What do you mean by the results of this study?
The researchers say, victims of peer bullying generally have a worse long-term effect on their mental health as adults compared to children who are victims of domestic violence (Domestic Violence).
This discovery has an important role for public health design and development of services to deal with bullying, according to the researchers.
Two sets of results found in two different groups make the results of this study quite confusing. For example, published media releases highlight 4.9% increase in the effect of anxiety disorder only on children who are bullied, compared with children who are victims of domestic violence. But, this figure is only obtained from US group studies.
This study only relies on personal reports of children and parents about cases of abuse and bullying, which can be of doubtful accuracy. Adults in particular tend to be reluctant to report cases of abuse committed by themselves or by their partners, even though researchers try to design research in such a way as to prevent this from happening. In addition, researchers can also show that this study does not make a difference between adult persecution and harsh parental upbringing.
In UK studies, not all children complete a mental examination at the age of 18. Those who have internal family problems are generally excluded from school, which makes the results of the study less reliable. There may also be some selection bias towards participants who agreed to participate in the study.
Researchers also have not succeeded in including the factors of cyber bullying into the research variables, although they say that a number of previous studies have shown an overlapping form between "traditional" bullying and cyber bullying.
In both studies, around 40% of children who were victims of abuse were also victims of bullying. Shown by researchers, it is very possible for children who experience abuse to be more vulnerable to bullying, or both types of abuse have similar risk factors between each other.