Bullying Effects Last Beyond the Present


Not all kids are bullied growing up, but this now appears to be the exception to the rule. Kids who never report having been bullied can consider themselves the lucky ones. According to 2014 statistics from No Bullying, 79 percent of boys and 83 percent of girls have reported being bullied either in school or online. The ubiquity of portable technology, and the convenience that comes with it, has given rise to a new wave of bullying. New studies are discovering that the effects of bullying last beyond what is experienced in the present, making contemporary bullying all the more challenging for parents, teachers and children to navigate.

Duke University published a study on Monday that revealed some unexpected and slightly disheartening results. Adults that were bullied as children displayed long-term negative health effects, but their peers that did the bullying showed one health benefit because of their choices. William Copeland, an associate professor of psychiatry at Duke University, spearheaded the study.

This study collected information from another study that began in 1993 called the Great Smoky Mountains (GSM) Study. The GSM study followed 1,420 children in North Carolina and conducted up to nine interviews with each participant, during both their childhood to adolescence years (ages nine to 16) and the beginning of young adulthood (ages 19 to 21).

The GSM study revealed that young adults who were bullied during childhood could have a greater risk of suffering long-term health issues such as depression, anxiety, and panic disorders. But the Duke University study showed that this was not the only critical revelation that their data provided. Copeland and his associates used measurements of C-reactive protein (CRP) in the blood levels of the individuals studied, and came across more essential information.

CRP is produced in the body in correlation with stress – the higher an individual’s CRP levels are, the more likely they are to be saddled with other health woes. The researchers in Copeland’s study found that all participants had higher CRP levels the older they became, but most notably, that the adults who experienced childhood bullying had the highest levels of CRP out of any other group. Former bullies had the lowest levels of gradually increasing CRP. With bullying effects such as CRP levels that last beyond the present and only increase over time, it is more clear than ever that bullying must be addressed in new and bold ways.

The Duke University study also uncovered a layer of facts that was previously missed by having been lumped into the category called “pure bullying.” Copeland and his researchers discovered that previous studies on bullying had essentially equated those who bullied out of their own initiative with those who were caught in the middle, who Copeland called “bully-victims.” These bully-victims had been bullied in certain instances, and at other times, they were the bullies to separate children.

Copeland’s study found that bully-victims had CRP levels within the median of “pure bullies” and the victims of bullies. Now-adults who had not been involved in childhood bullying in any way had CRP levels that largely reflected those of bully-victims. This pointed towards the fact that even if a participant had been bullied by one person, as well as chose to bully another child, their stress levels and lifelong health patterns would have been the same as those who avoided the onslaught of bullying entirely.

Catherine Bradshaw, the deputy director of the John Hopkins Center for the Prevention of Youth Violence in Maryland, mentioned the fact that childhood bullies are more likely to have truancy problems, carry weapons and participate in gangs. Bradshaw wanted to comment that it is important for those reading about the Duke University study to understand that regardless of scientific findings, there should be no warrant for which bullying could be made acceptable.

School shootings are also very often tied to instances of bullying, with at least 75 percent of cases having been associated with bullying or harassment towards the shooter. With so many bleak statistics staring into the face of those who are making anti-bullying efforts, it can seem like a hopeless problem. But such a statement would be far from the truth.

No Bullying also reports that when a bystander intervenes in a bullying episode, whether it is a peer or an adult, the bullying stops within 10 seconds, 57 percent of the time. This means that just standing up to stop the problem can thwart more than half of all bullying outbreaks.

Bars & Melody, a teenage rap duo from the UK, won crowds over during their recent Britain’s Got Talent audition, where they rapped against bullying. The duo passed the audition, allowing them to start performing to more crowds. So while there is a long road ahead for anti-bullying advocates to eliminate more of the sources of bullying, the power against hateful actions and speech is growing stronger each day.

By Brad Johnson

National Geographic
No Bullying
Huffington Post
e! Science News

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