Children who are bullied are at greater risk of mental health problems in later life than those who are maltreated by adults, according to research.
The authors of the study say it is time that bullying is taken more seriously. They found children who were bullied were five times more likely to experience anxiety and twice as likely to talk of suffering depression and self-harm as those who were maltreated at home.
Maltreatment – by which they mean “any physical or emotional ill-treatment, sexual abuse, neglect, or negligent treatment resulting in actual or potential harm to the child’s health, survival, development or dignity” – has been the main focus of concern with regard to children’s later mental health until now, says Professor Dieter Wolke, who led the study, from the University of Warwick.
The paper published in the journal Lancet Psychiatry suggests that bullying by other children can actually do more long-term harm.
“Until now, governments have focused their efforts and resources on family maltreatment rather than bullying,” said Wolke. “Since one in three children worldwide report being bullied, and it is clear that bullied children have similar or worse mental health problems later in life to those who are maltreated, more needs to be done to address this imbalance. Moreover, it is vital that schools, health services and other agencies work together to tackle bullying.”