The effects of bullying last long into adulthood

Impact of Bullying in Childhood on Adult Health, Wealth, Crime, and Social Outcomes

From Psychological Science

It has long been acknowledged that bullying at a young age presents a problem for schools, parents and public policy makers alike. Though children spend more time with their peers than their parents, there is relatively little work done on understanding the impact of these interactions on their life beyond school. This study shows that serious illness, struggling to hold down a regular job and poor social relationships are just some of the adverse outcomes in adulthood faced by those exposed to bullying in childhood. The research assessed 1,420 participants four to six times between the ages of 9 and 16 years and adult outcomes between 24-26 years of age. The results highlight the extent of which the risk of health, wealth and social problems is heightened by exposure to bullying; and in doing so is the first study to look into the effects beyond just health.


Bullying is a serious problem for schools, parents, and public-policymakers alike. Bullying creates risks of health and social problems in childhood, but it is unclear if such risks extend into adulthood. A large cohort of children was assessed for bullying involvement in childhood and then followed up in young adulthood in an assessment of health, risky or illegal behavior, wealth, and social relationships. Victims of childhood bullying, including those that bullied others (bully-victims), were at increased risk of poor health, wealth, and social-relationship outcomes in adulthood even after we controlled for family hardship and childhood psychiatric disorders. In contrast, pure bullies were not at increased risk of poor outcomes in adulthood once other family and childhood risk factors were taken into account. Being bullied is not a harmless rite of passage but throws a long shadow over affected people’s lives. Interventions in childhood are likely to reduce long-term health and social costs.

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Article details

Research Article: Dieter Wolke,
William E. Copeland, Adrian Angold, and E. Jane Costello
Impact of Bullying in Childhood on Adult Health, Wealth, Crime, and Social Outcomes Psychological Science 0956797613481608, first published on August 19, 2013 doi:10.1177/0956797613481608



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