Posted by: Tammy Cravit | January 11, 2011

Bullying by Peers Can Contribute to Psychotic Symptoms

Though there’s been a growing awareness of the problem of bullying, in the school setting and elsewhere, in recent years, some teachers and administrators persist in glossing over acts of bullying in schools as just “kids being kids”. This article, from the Los Angeles Times, should give them pause.

The Times reports that:

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.

If you know or work with anyone who shares the attitude that bullying isn’t an important problem, please share this article with them. Bullying isn’t just about “kids being kids” and, as this new research shows, failing to take bullying seriously is just plain dangerous.


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