Bullying does not leave lasting mental scars, new research suggests.
While being bullied at 11 may cause children to experience depression, anxiety and hyperactivity, these conditions do not persist at age 16, a study found.
Children are more resilient than parents and teachers think, with most bouncing back from peer mistreatment, according to researchers.
Dr Judy Silberg from the Virginia Commonwealth University, who was not involved in the study, said: ‘Most children will get better.’
Yet, the research also revealed paranoid thoughts as a result of bullying can continue into a victim’s later teens.
PARENTS WORRY MORE ABOUT THEIR CHILD BEING BULLIED THAN THEM GETTING PREGNANT
Parents worry more about their child being bullied than them getting pregnant, research revealed last month.
Some 61 percent worry about their children being picked on, a study found.
Unhealthy lifestyle habits, drug abuse and internet safety also weigh on the minds of many mothers and fathers, the research adds.
Pregnancy also features in the top 10 list of worries.
Cyberbulling has previously been linked to depression, anxiety, insomnia and an increased risk of suicide.
Study author Dr Gary Freed from the University of Michigan’s CS Mott Children’s Hospital, said: ‘Simple effective strategies may include not providing personal identifying information on social media, chat platforms, or in shared gaming environments.’
How the research was carried out
The researchers from University College London analysed 11,108 twins born in England and Wales between 1994 and 1996.
Twins were chosen to minimise the potential impact of genetics or home life impacting children’s response to bullying.
The study’s participants completed assessments on their experience of bullying when they were 11 and 14 years old.
At 11 and 16 years old, the participants’ mental health was evaluated. This included anxiety, depression, hyperactivity and impulsivity, inattention, conduct problems, and psychotic-like experiences, such as paranoid thoughts.
‘Most children will get better’
Results reveal while children who are bullied at 11 are more likely to experience depression, anxiety, inattention and hyperactivity, these conditions do not persist five years later.
Yet, for unclear reasons, paranoid thoughts often continue.
Dr Silberg said: ‘Most children will get better.’
The researchers add children are more resilient than parents and teachers think, with most bouncing back from peer mistreatment.
Other experts add, however, not all youngsters are unaffected by bullying in their later life.
Dr Bonnie Leadbeater from the University of Victoria in British Columbia, who was not involved in the study, said: ‘The effects of bullying at age 11 on anxiety and depression at age 16 is what diminishes.
‘You cannot interpret this as supporting a more general statement that the effects of bullying lessen over time.
‘Bullying may be episodic or chronic, and the limited assessment of bullying may severely underestimate the effects of chronic bullying on mental health and behavioral problems.’
The findings were published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry.