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Bullying Seems to Affect Kids Years Later

by The Kid's Doctor Staff

A new report out on bullying shows that preteens who were bullied persistently when they were younger are more likely than others their age to have hallucinations, delusions or other psychotic symptoms.

The study conducted by British researchers involved over 6,000 children who averaged just less than 13 years of age. Their parents had provided regular updates about the youngsters’ health and development since birth and the children had undergone yearly physical and psychological assessments since age seven.

Almost half (46 percent) had experienced bullying at ages eight or 10. As they neared 13, about 14 percent of the children had broad psychosis-like symptoms, with one or more symptoms suspected or confirmed. 11 percent had intermediate symptoms (one or more symptoms suspected or present at times other than when going to sleep, waking from sleep during a fever or after substance use) and 6 percent had narrow symptoms (one or more symptoms confirmed).

Children who were bullied at either ages eight or 10 were about twice as likely as other children to have psychotic symptoms. The risk was highest in preteens who had suffered chronic or severe bullying.

The study appears in the May 2009 issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry.

“Whether repeated victimization experiences alter cognitive and affective processing or re-program stress response, or whether psychotic symptoms are more likely due to genetic predisposition still needs to be determined in further research,” wrote the researchers.

“A major implication is that chronic or severe peer victimization has non-trivial, adverse, long-term consequences,” they wrote. “Reduction of peer victimization and the resulting stress caused to victims could be a worthwhile target for prevention and early intervention efforts for common mental health problems and psychosis.”

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