Getting Bullied Linked To Long-Term Mental Illness

Peer pressure and victimization during a child’s school years have been linked to several psychiatric illnesses, physical health issues and significant social problems. Identification of predictors of such victimization is of potentially immense value in developing strategies to prevent the same issues. The authors of this study conducted in Québec, Canada, showed that early interventions should be targeted not only at children’s behavior but also at parenting skills, aiming specifically to limit harsh parenting measures, especially in the lower socio-economic groups.

During the school years, many children undergo victimization at the hands of their peers. A lot of these children develop problems including depression, substance abuse, lack of confidence and other physical ailments. A few studies have reported that factors like harsh measures used by parents, low economic status and hyperactivity may be linked to victimization. The previous studies in this area were on small numbers of children and had not conducted a simultaneous assessment of family factors at play. This study was planned with the aim of determining specific patterns of victimization along with its association with entry into school and family predictors.


  • Data from the Québec Longitudinal Study of Child Development was used.
  • Children were seen at pre-determined intervals from age 4.5 months to 7.2 years. Rating of victimization at preschool and school levels was performed by mothers, teachers and the children themselves. Questionnaires were utilized for assessment.
  • Data regarding family structure, household income, age and education level of parents was collected. Mothers were asked to provide inputs for harsh parenting strategies used at home.
  • Symptoms of hyperactivity, aggressiveness and mood problems in children were also rated by mothers.
  • Results

  • As victims got older (and entered higher grades in elementary school) they continued to be picked on by their peers, and this did not differ between males and females.
  • High levels of physical aggression, low economic status and harsh parenting measures were predictors of peer victimization.
  • Hyperactivity and mood disturbances in children did not show any relation to peer victimization.
  • Shortcomings
    The data was predominantly collected using mother/teacher ratings, which is likely to be biased and may not be a correct determinant of variables. The study was limited to early school years only, and trends in later years cannot be drawn from the results. The patterns of victimization in early years have not been assessed. Future studies are required to examine whether the patterns seen in this study persist during later school years, and also to identify the patterns of early peer victimization.

    The results of this study highlight the fact that the early formative years are important determinants of later behavior in children, especially in the context of peer victimization. For teachers and parents, this means that vigilance is required for identification of peer victimization at a very early age. Also, parents may need guidance regarding gentle and appropriate parenting skills. According to the authors, “early preventive interventions should target both child- and parent-level risks and focus on alternatives to harsh and aggressive interactions.” Early intervention and simple skills may be enough to ensure the development of a child into a healthy and socially well-adjusted adult.

    For More Information:
    Peer Victimization in School May be Determined at Early Pre-School Level
    Publication Journal: Archives of General Psychiatry, (Reprinted) October 2008
    By Edward D. Barker, PhD; Michel Boivin, PhD; University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa and Université Laval, Québec City, Canada

    *FYI Living Lab Reports Are Summaries of the Original Research.
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