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Childhood bullying associated with adult psychiatric disorders

Childhood bullying associated with adult psychiatric disorders


As a youth sports coach or parent of a young athlete involved in sports, you have a responsibility to step up – and speak up – when you see bullying taking place.

How bullying affects children has been well documented, and a new study recently released reinforces how damaging being bullied can be and the life-altering impact it has on many well into adulthood.

The study, conducted by Finnish researchers, found that exposure to bullying as a child was associated with psychiatric disorders in adulthood that required treatment, which coincides with previous research that has suggested that bullying and exposure to bullying may contribute to later mental health issues.

Dr. Andre Sourander of the University of Turku, Finland, and coauthors examined associations between bullying behavior at age 8 and adult psychiatric outcomes by age 29. The study used data from more than 5,000 Finnish children and information on the use of inpatient and outpatient services to treat psychiatric disorders from ages 16 to 29 was obtained from a nationwide hospital register.

About 90 percent of the study participants did not engage in bullying behavior and, of those, 11.5 percent had received a psychiatric diagnosis by follow-up.

In comparison, 19.9 percent of participants who engaged in frequent bullying, 23.1 percent of participants frequently exposed to bullying, and 31.2 percent of participants who both frequently engaged in and were frequently exposed to bullying had psychiatric diagnoses by follow-up, according to the results.

These results further reinforce the importance of adults recognizing when bullying is taking place and addressing the issue with young athletes. The National Alliance for Youth Sports offers a free online Bullying Prevention Training program that helps adults in their roles as volunteer coaches and parents of young athletes learn how to prevent bullying as well as respond to it when it does occur.

In this study participants were divided into four groups: those who never or only sometimes bully and are not exposed to bullying; those who frequently bully but are not exposed to bullying; those who were frequently only exposed to bullying; and those who frequently bully and are exposed to bullying.

The treatment of any psychiatric disorder was associated with frequent exposure to bullying, as well as with being a bully and being exposed to bullying. Exposure to bullying was associated with depression, according to the results.

Study participants who were bullies and exposed to bullying at age 8 had a high risk for several psychiatric disorders that required treatment when they were adults.

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