Childhood Bullying Can Lead to Depression in Adulthood

It is an alarming situation for the parents if their kid is facing conflicts among family or childhood peer bullying. It can lead to bumps and bruises for now but the effect of bullying on mental health can last for many years.

Peer or intrafamilial bullying such as physical or verbal abuse by the parents or siblings in the early stages of life can lead towards a silent killer known as ‘depression’, says a recent study published in the Journal of Americal Medicine Association (JAMA): Public Health.

The researchers from Cheeloo College of Medicine, Shandong University, Jinan and Pudong Institute for Health Development, Shanghai, China have conducted a cross-sectional study to check the link between childhood bullying and adulthood depression which is considered to be a global burden disease that affects an individual’s life entirely including physical and mental wellbeing by seeping energy out of a person. The condition affects the physical as well as mental wellbeing by seeping energy out of the affected person.

It has been estimated that every seven minutes a child becomes the victim of bullying. A research conducted by Missouri Departement of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) has mentioned that 6.4% of the younger kids are more likely to become a victim of bullying than older kids (2.9%).

Source: DHSS
Source: PrevNet

As for the current study, the Chinese researchers extracted the data from the China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Study (CHARLS) from June 1 to December 31, 2014. The study sample was comprised of 15,450 Chinese people aged 45 or older who reported that they experienced two types of bullying at some certain point in their childhood. First, by their peer groups including the school fellows or the neighbors. Second, intrafamilial bullying including parental abuse either verbal or physical as well as abuse by other siblings. The study began from July 1 and last for September 30, 2015, whereas the data analysis was performed from October 1 to 30, 2019.

Source: JAMA

Three Major Areas of Measurement and Their Findings

1: To find the childhood intrafamilial aggression, the researchers asked the following questions from each participant.

  • The question to find the Parental Abuse: “When you were growing up, did your parents or guardian ever hit you? Was that often, sometimes, rarely, or never?”
  • The question to determine the abusive behavior by siblings: “When you were growing up, did your siblings ever hit you? Was that never, rarely, sometimes, or often?”

After the analysis, the team found out that 28.6% and 6.4% of participants from the total 15,450 have reported parental abuse and siblings aggression, respectively.

2: To determine the outcomes from peer bullying, the team asked the following questions from each participant.

  • The question to assess bullying by neighbors: “When you were a child, how often were you picked on or bullied by kids in your neighborhood (never, rarely, sometimes, or often)?”
  • The question to assess bullying by school fellows: “When you were a child, how often were you picked on or bullied by kids in your school (never, rarely, sometimes, or often)?”

The team determined that 16.2% of the total participants have experienced peer bullying in childhood. The researchers also found that those people who had a conflictual family background or aggressive siblings were more more likely to face peer bullying.

Source: Anti-Bullying Alliance

3: To assess the depressive symptoms that the participants experienced later in life or adulthood, the investigators used the CES-D scale that includes 7 items used to measure depression symptoms. The 7-items included:

  • Was bothered by things
  • Had trouble keeping the mind on tasks
  • Felt depressed
  • Felt everything he/she did was an effort
  • Felt fearful
  • Restless sleep
  • Felt lonely

The statistical analysis showed that people with intrafamilial conflicts, siblings’ aggression, or peer bullying were more likely to experience depressive symptoms in adulthood.

The researchers determined the following correlations among the study variables: “Peer bullying mediated 30% of the association between childhood parental maltreatment and adult depression and 35% of the association between sibling aggression and depression symptoms in adulthood”.

Source: JAMA
Source: JAMA

However, being bullied in childhood by the peer group or family can result into a major depressive disorder (MDD) which is the major cause of disability in the United States because over 16.1 million American adults, more women than men, are suffering from MDD, according to the data specified by Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA). A fact sheet planned by National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has specified that 6.5 million adults aged 65 and over are affected by depression.

Source: Victoria University: Melbourne Australia

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