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I was teased mercilessly growing up. I was short, a little pudgy and spent the majority of elementary school playing with Beanie Babies during recess. My brother didn't have it so easy, either. He had developmental problems and was picked on a lot. I'm sure just about everyone got bullied at some point in their lives, and it probably has stuck with them. One British study confirms that while sticks and stones may break your bones, words might just have a lasting impact.
According to BBC News, a report by the British National Child Development Study found that more than 40 years after being bullied, some adults had long term impacts on their lives. The incredible study followed 7,771 children born during one week in the United Kingdom way back in 1958 from the time they were seven until they turned 50. The researchers found that bullied kids were at an increased risk for depression and anxiety, and reported a lower quality of life. The study confirms what previous ones believed about the long term consequences of getting picked on.
Researchers began collecting their data by asking the parents of the kids if they were exposed to bullying back when they were seven, and again at eleven. About a quarter of the parents reported their little ones were bullied occasionally, and about fifteen percent reported frequent harassment. As the study continued, tests were given to the test subjects to see if known affects of bullying, like low self esteem and depression, remained as they aged. They found as a result of childhood bullying, the then fifty year olds were likely to have poor mental and surprisingly, physical health. They also found these grown ups were much less likely to have good relationships , had worse educational backgrounds and were often unemployed.
Professor Louise Arseneault of King's College in London was the head of the study. She suggests that one way to help reduce bullying is to stop acting like it's normal. I am all for mental fortitude, but when you're getting picked on, all it teaches you is to think you're horrible, when you're not. Arseneault encourages parents, educators and policy makers in schools to get proactive in preventing kids from taunting each other. Programs that discourage kids from picking on each other both at home and online seem to be very important, and supporting kids who are bullied with counseling can possibly help remedy some of the long term effects.
So if you have kids, teach them to be nice to each other but also not to be afraid to tell a grown up when someone is being a jerk. No one wants to think their child is the school yard bully, but if they are and you don't do something about it, you're not doing anyone any favors. I know it's taken me a long time to get over the teasing I faced form preschool to high school, and I don't want anyone else to have to go through that same trauma.