Injuries inflicted by playground bullies are often much more significant than black eyes and scraped knees. New research conducted at King’s College London and published in a recent edition of the medical journal Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine demonstrates that bullying often leads to the development of depression and anxiety.
Scientists involved in this latest study examined 1,116 pairs of twins born in England and Wales between 1994 and 1995. Because twins share genetic backgrounds and home environments, scientists were able to better account for the effects of family situation as well as environment, which could both contribute to the risk of being bullied and the risk of internalizing problems.
Among pairs of identical twins between 7 and 9 years of age, in instances in which one twin experienced bullying but the other did not, the bullied twin was found to be significantly more likely to exhibit internalizing problems by age 10. Internalizing problems were defined by the researchers as problems in which negativity is inwardly directed, rather than outwardly manifest. Examples include depression and anxiety — outward manifestations would include conduct disorder problems.
Authors of the study note that bullied children are known to suffer more frequently from anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts than other children, and that they are more likely to experience social isolation. Experiencing these effects early in life also increases a child’s future likelihood of depression and anxiety disorders, they warn. They recommend that efforts to combat bullying should include victim support as well as addressing bullies, to mitigate future health consequences.
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