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Is bullying bad for your health? The consequences of bullying perpetration and victimization in childhood on health behaviors in adulthood

Jaimee Stuart (Postdoctoral Research Fellow based at Roy McKenzie Centre for the Study of Families, School of Psychology, Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand)
Paul E. Jose (Associate Professor based at School of Psychology, Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand)

Journal of Aggression, Conflict and Peace Research

ISSN: 1759-6599

Article publication date: 8 July 2014

1142

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to examine whether young people who bully others in childhood (aged seven to 12 years old) go on to have worse health outcomes than non-bullies 39 years later. Furthermore, four categories of engagement in bullying behaviors (bully, victim, bully-victim, and not involved) were compared in order to assess differences in health and well-being in late adulthood.

Design/methodology/approach

A sample of 305 teacher-identified childhood bullies were selected from the Aberdeen Children of the 1950s cohort and matched with a sample of 305 non-bullies using propensity score matching methods. These groups were then tested for differences in six health outcomes (perceived support, depression, poor health, presence of a long-term illness, history of smoking, and frequent alcohol consumption) measured in late adulthood. Categories of bullying engagement (bully, victim, bully-victim, not involved) were also constructed using the matched groups and adult recollection of victimization, and differences between the four groups on health outcomes were tested.

Findings

Bullies were found to be significantly more likely than non-bullies to have a history of smoking and currently have a long-term illness and victims reported significantly lower levels of perceived support and greater depression than non-victims. Furthermore, bully-victims reported experiencing significantly less support and more depression than bullies, and were significantly more likely to currently have a long-term illness than non-bullies.

Originality/value

Results indicate that bullying in childhood is associated with negative health outcomes much later in life. Being both a perpetrator and victim of bullying was associated with worse health outcomes than either being a bully, victim, or not being involved. These results indicate that there are long-lasting implications for individuals involved in bullying almost four decades later in life.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

This study was supported by a Marsden Fast-Start Grant from The Royal Society of New Zealand. Data used for this manuscript come from the Aberdeen Children of the 1950s study (ACONF), the thanks go to the steering committee for granting access to the anonymized data set.

Citation

Stuart, J. and E. Jose, P. (2014), "Is bullying bad for your health? The consequences of bullying perpetration and victimization in childhood on health behaviors in adulthood", Journal of Aggression, Conflict and Peace Research, Vol. 6 No. 3, pp. 185-195. https://doi.org/10.1108/JACPR-01-2014-0003

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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