Despite widespread anti-bullying campaigns in schools, there is still no 100 percent effective way yet to prevent bullying and its devastating consequences.
A recent study in the journal Pediatrics found that bullying can have harmful long-term effects on children’s mental and physical health.
The study looked at over 4,000 children in a long-term study, checking up with them in fifth, seventh and tenth grade to see how they fared.
Results showed that children who experienced bullying both in the past and present had the worst outcomes, including greater symptoms of depression and lower self-worth.
Children who only currently were being bullied had the second worst outcomes, followed by children who were only bullied in the past. Children with the best outcomes were those who were never bullied.
On a scale of psychosocial health, 44.6 percent of children with past and present bullying experiences scored at the lowest end, compared to only 6.5 percent of children who hadn’t experienced bullying.
An article on the study in the New England Journal of Medicine states that the authors of the study concluded early intervention is important to prevent long-term bullying, as well as follow-up interventions if needed. Clinicians could also initiate mental health referrals at the first sign of bullying.
Lynn Lyons, co-author of “Anxious Kids, Anxious Parents: 7 Ways to Stop the Worry Cycle and Raise Courageous and Independent Children,” said in an email that bullying can increase the risk for depression, since it can get in the way of social and peer support for children.
“Long-term bullying often results in kids pulling away from social activities and school,” Lyons said.
“Kids gain confidence and improve social skills by practicing, trying and failing, having good experiences and bad,” she added. “When you’re the target of bullying, you’re not going to take those risks.”
However, if bullying is short-term, there is more of a chance for children to feel positive about steps taken to stop the bullying, especially if it’s reinforced that it’s resolved.