Bullying in childhood and adolescence is a scourge in sore need of effective solutions. Studies have already revealed the toll that bullying takes on kids' mental and physical health. Now new research suggests that bullying by peers can increase the risk of the victim developing psychotic symptoms later in life.
The new study, published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, used valuable data from the Environmental Risk Longitudinal Twin Study, which follows 2,232 twin children and their families. Mothers of the children were interviewed and, at age 12, children were asked about bullying experiences and psychotic symptoms, such as hallucinations, delusions or paranoia. The presence of psychotic symptoms was verified by a doctor.
The study found that children who were bullied by peers were more than twice as likely to experience psychotic symptoms at age 12 compared with children who did not suffer similar trauma. This risk remained present even when the researchers controlled for other factors that could contribute to mental illness, such as socioeconomic deprivation, IQ and genetic disposition to mental illness. Children who were bullied and who also experienced maltreatment by adults were more than five times more likely to develop psychotic symptoms. However, enduring a traumatic accident did not significantly increase the risk.