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Social Risk Factors for Bullying and Long-term Impact of Being a Bully or Victim

Posted on February 25, 2013

Social Risk Factors for Bullying and Long-term Impact of Being a Bully or Victim

February 24, 2013 by
Bully and victim both suffer psychiatric disorders.  Image by trix0r.Bully and victim both suffer psychiatric disorders. Image by trix0r.

No one likes bullying, but many parents hope that as children grow, the impact of being bullied or of being a bully will fade along with adolescent gawkiness and the need for braces – but will it?

Dr. William E. Copeland and colleagues studied 1420 children who had been involved in bullying as either victims or bullies during the ages of 6 to 9.  By following the children and their families as they journeyed through childhood, the researchers found some surprising results when it comes to the long-term impact of bullying, both for the bullies and for the victims.

Bullying: The Study Design

The researchers approached children and their families from eleven counties in North Carolina to participate in the research. Over a period of twenty years,  researchers annually assessed the children and interviewed the parents to determine if the child had experienced bullying or been a bully; they noted psychiatric problems for both groups.

In an interview with Decoded Science, Dr. Copeland explained why this longitudinal study has such reliable data. He tells us: “In epidemiologic studies, a response rate of over 70% is typically considered good, and a rate of over 80% is outstanding. The next question is how well do you retain the subjects that participate at least once.  In the Great Smoky Mountain Study, we have been able to complete over 80% of possible interviews with the subjects over the 20 years the study has been ongoing. That too is very good. We have done extensive analyses to  compare those that have continued to participate with those that have not and we have not identified any ways in which those that have participated are different than those that have not.”

In this case, the high rate of response and retention increase the quality and reliability of the results.

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