Kids who are consistently bullied by peers are more likely to develop psychotic symptoms in early adolescence, finds a new study.
For the study, Andrea Schreier, Ph.D., of Warwick Medical School, University of Warwick, Coventry, England, and colleagues examined 6,437 individuals in early adolescence (average age 12.9) who were part of the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC).
Parents had completed regular mailed questionnaires about their child's health and development since birth, and the children underwent yearly physical and psychological assessments from age 7.
At each visit, trained interviewers rated the children on whether they had experienced psychotic symptoms (hallucinations, delusions or thought disorders) during the previous six months.
Children, parents and teachers reported on whether the child had experienced peer victimization, defined as negative actions by one of more other students with the intention to hurt.
A total of 46.2 percent of participants were categorized as victims and 53.8 percent were not victimized at either ages 8 or 10. At follow-up, 13.7 percent had broad psychosis-like symptoms, 11.5 percent had intermediate symptoms and 5.6 percent had narrow symptoms.
The results showed that the risk of psychotic symptoms was approximately doubled among children who were victims of bullying at age 8 or 10, independent of other psychiatric illness, family adversity or the child's IQ. The association was stronger when victimization was chronic or severe.
"A major implication is that chronic or severe peer victimization has non-trivial, adverse, long-term consequences. Reduction of peer victimization and of the resulting stress caused to victims could be a worthwhile target for prevention and early intervention efforts for common mental health problems and psychosis," the authors said.
The study has been published in the May issue of Archives of General Psychiatry, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.