Unfortunately, bullying is a reality many children and adolescents face. While bullying can be devastating at the time, new research has examined the lifelong impact of being bullied as a child or teen. Bullying can include name calling, excluding others from social groups, stealing others’ possessions, and threatening physical harm.
In a study of 7000 teens, approximately half were victims of bullying. Not surprisingly, being bullied impacted their mental health – 40% of the victims of teenage bullying were found to have mental health issues by their mid-20s. These issues included anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem. A history of being bullied was also associated with an increased chance of unemployment and slightly lower income for those who were employed. While being bullied does not guarantee teens will have later struggles, there does appear to be a relationship between the two.
The researchers offered suggestions to help combat bullying and its effects. They recommended a system-wide approach, in which the school culture considers bullying unacceptable and emphasizes student safety. They also suggested parents and teachers help to develop children’s and teens’ positive qualities, such as resilience and confidence, which may help to minimize the impact of being bullied. Additionally, the researchers recommended having an open dialogue about bullying and keeping aware of children’s and students’ social conflicts. Setting a positive example for children and teens by not engaging in bullying behaviors or expressing these attitudes was also recommended.