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Do the victims of school bullies tend to become depressed later in life? A systematic review and meta‐analysis of longitudinal studies

Maria M. Ttofi (Institute of Criminology, Cambridge University, Cambridge, UK)
David P. Farrington (Institute of Criminology, Cambridge University, Cambridge, UK)
Friedrich Lösel (Institute of Criminology, Cambridge University, Cambridge, UK)
Rolf Loeber (Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA)

Journal of Aggression, Conflict and Peace Research

ISSN: 1759-6599

Article publication date: 16 May 2011

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Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to investigate the extent to which bullying victimization in school predicts depression in later life and whether this relation holds after controlling for other major childhood risk factors.

Design/methodology/approach

As no previous systematic review has been conducted on this topic, effect sizes are based on both published and unpublished studies: longitudinal investigators of 28 studies have conducted specific analyses for the authors' review.

Findings

The probability of being depressed up to 36 years later (mean follow‐up period of 6.9 years) was much higher for children who were bullied at school than for non‐involved students (odds ratio (OR)=1.99; 95 per cent CI: 1.71‐2.32). Bullying victimization was a significant risk factor for later depression even after controlling for up to 20 (mean number of six covariates) major childhood risk factors (OR=1.74; 95 per cent CI: 1.54‐1.97). Effect sizes were smaller when the follow‐up period was longer and larger the younger the child was when exposed to bullying. Finally, the summary effect size was not significantly related to the number of risk factors controlled for.

Originality/value

Although causal inferences are tentative, the overall results presented in this paper indicate that bullying victimization is a major childhood risk factor that uniquely contributes to later depression. High quality effective anti‐bullying programmes could be viewed as an early form of public health promotion.

Keywords

Citation

Ttofi, M.M., Farrington, D.P., Lösel, F. and Loeber, R. (2011), "Do the victims of school bullies tend to become depressed later in life? A systematic review and meta‐analysis of longitudinal studies", Journal of Aggression, Conflict and Peace Research, Vol. 3 No. 2, pp. 63-73. https://doi.org/10.1108/17596591111132873

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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