Bullying and its effects in adult life

The long term effects of childhood bullying can be detrimental in adult life as it can foster negative consequences in relation to psychological well being, health, relationships and employment. The long term impact of bullying in one’s childhood stage of development was examined by researchers in the Psychological Science (the highest ranked empirical journal in psychology, is a peer-reviewed monthly journal)
and was categorized into three different groups – those who were victims of bullying, those who were bullies and those who were both bullies and victims. It was found that the negative outcomes were majorly associated with those individuals who were victims and bullies themselves.


Photo courtesy of bullyville.com

In their childhood years, they experienced qualities such as poor at social cue comprehension, easily provoked, unpopular with their peers and low self-esteem. As a result, these children became adults who were six times more likely to develop a smoking or substance addiction, psychiatric disorder such as depression or anxiety, or serious illness. In addition, they were also more likely to be obese, a school dropout and less likely to make long lasting friends.

Victims of bullying, without actually becoming bullies, were also more likely to develop mental health problems, serious illnesses and be affected by poverty. However, those who were only victims of bullying, and not victims and bullies, were the most successful category in education and social interactions than their counterparts.

Bullies on the other hand, had the highest likelihood of being in violent relationships, or involved in risky behavior such as sexual activity, drugs, illegal behavior, alcoholism, fighting, lying, and/or criminal activity. Coincidentally, bullies had more successful outcomes regarding health and wealth as compared to victims of bullying and those who were both victims and bullies.

Regardless of these results the study reported by Sean Coughlan, took into account the social background factors which included family structure and stability, family dysfunction and hardships. The study also took into account all forms of bullying which were physical, verbal and/or psychological.

But is bullying a rite of passage that everyone has to endure in order to build character, or is it an unfortunate sequence of events where one’s confidence and self-esteem is pummeled?

“We cannot continue to dismiss bullying as a harmless, almost inevitable, part of growing up. We need to change this mindset and acknowledge this as a serious problem” – Dieter Wolke, University of Warwick

Allison, Roeger & Reinfeld-Kirkman (2009) in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry reported that there was significant poorer mental and physical health with lower overall quality of life in adulthood for those who were bullied in childhood. Ryu Takizawa (2014) added that it also affected social functionality and promoted psychological distress to low levels of education.

Photo courtesy of schoolclimatesolutions.org

Photo courtesy of schoolclimatesolutions.org

The impact of bullying undoubtedly persists into mid-life and through adult life. Individuals who are or were bullied in childhood, especially frequently and severely, will always continue to be at risk for a range of poor health, social and economic outcomes throughout their adult life. Therefore, interventions need to be implemented in order to not only reduce bullying, but to also lessen the long-term effects on the well-being of victims who have been bullied.

”In the case of victims of bullying, it shows how bullying can spread when left untreated. Some interventions are already available in schools, but new tools are needed to help health professionals to identify, monitor and deal with the ill-effects of bullying. The challenge we face now is committing the time and resource to these interventions to try and put an end to bullying.” – Dieter Wolke, University of Warwick.

By Alexandra Daley



scroll to top