Teen bullying linked to depression in adults

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those who were bullied at least once a week were more than twice as likely to be depressed when they grew up.

getting bullied is an ongoing condition, it can’t be so-many-times-per-week.

getting beaten up is part of getting bullied, and it can be once-per-week, though it is hard to see how people could remember the frequency when the events blur together.


You learn that you are worthless. That no one will help you. You accept suffering, learn it’s normal. Depression is how you cope - if you care, you’ll go mad. Better to not care. Go numb. No one can hear you anyway.


Or the bullies were picking on the “beta” kids or the social misfits,* and those kids grew up to be depressed adults.

Adults and kids both know which other kids are likely to be bullied. My wife is a highschool teacher, and can often spot the kids who are likely to be bullied by their peers from the first day of class.

The article (thankfully) mentions this, but seems to imply that an experiment to tease out the differences would be unethical:

The results offer support for the idea that bullying during childhood leads to depression in adulthood, but they don’t prove that one causes the other. Nailing that down would require an experiment that randomly assigned some people to be bullied and others to be left alone.

It seems to me that you could tease out the differences in a more ethical way: find schools in which there is a culture against bullying, vs those in which the administration and (more importantly) the kids’ culture tolerates bullying. If you make the assumption** that both populations have the same proportion of “bully-target” kids, you can see which population creates more depressed adults.

The point is the dependent variable of the experiment should be whether there is bullying at the school, not which kids get bullied when there is bullying.

* Said as a social misfit
** A flaw would be that kids who are bullied in bully-prone schools might move to other schools. So it would help to find districts with limited opportunity for mobility


13-year-olds who were frequent targets of bullies were three times more likely than their non-victimized peers to be depressed as adults.

Pardon my language but: no shit, Sherlocks.

Part of me is glad for hard data, but it sometimes enrages me that our society needs scientific evidence for things that basic empathy and understanding would have told us were almost certainly true. It’s the other half of the old idea: Prove to me, scientifically and irrefutably, that you feel pain. Can you?


Yes, bullying is another way of convincing kids that they’re “worthless.” It’s not at all surprising that such self-hating convictions last into adulthood. Nor that they can be really difficult to recover from.


Ugh. I got social class, child abuse, and family history of depression. Plus bullying… So many variables…

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Or you may luck out and get to trade homework (and test aids and so) for protection. Took me a few years, though.

I think the idea of encouraging and enabling the bullying is to teach that we are worthless.

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The most scientifically valid experiment to measure this would be an Independent Groups design (randomise subjects to study groups; then bully Group A while protecting Group B; follow up long term by investigators blinded to group). Randomisation reduces the effects of confounding variables and the blinding reduces investigator bias effects. So in this instance, it would indeed be highly unethical for the reasons described. :frowning:

That would be a quasi-experimental design without randomisation and so less informative and scientifically valid. You could reduce the (considerable) confounding by case matching the cohorts, but it would be an extraordinary amount of work. Just finding our bullying schools would be ethically dubious in itself as that would require testing teachers and students under a different pretext so that they were unaware of what the point of the survey is, in order to avoid a ‘social desirability response set’ to questioning and then allowing a situation which is already known to be detrimental to child development to continue for the purpose of the experiment …

If we could take a time machine back to the era of Johnson & Tudor’s “Monster Study” it might be feasible … :scream:

Following up adults (as the BMJ study did) has no ethical issues, but because it’s post hoc it means that causality can’t be inferred. That said, it wouldn’t be at all surprising if childhood bullying does indeed increase the risk of adult depression. I can count myself fortunate to escape that result.

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I can prove nociception quite easily. Proof of my pain, however, requires your acknowledgement of my ability to experience an emotional response to the nociception and thus requires an act of faith on your part … :wink:

Honestly, I’ve been through a whole host of traumas and that’s the only one I’ve never been able to deal with and move past. If I met my junior high school bully today, I’m pretty sure I could burn his entire family alive and sleep better that night than I have since I was 10.


In other news, water = wet, sky = blue. I mean seriously, how is this news?

I’ve heard from a certain subset of the bullied that some adults in their lives would actually resort to blaming them for their own victimhood, along the lines of “you know they’re going to pick on you if you do/say/act thay way” and trying to “solve the problem” through victim control, rather than facing the larger lack of empathy problem head on. Like telling young black men not to wear hoodies or women nit to flirt. Thinking about that makes me pretty fucking depressed.

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Well, yeah… that’s just people telling their experiences, hardly scientific. We can only (apparently) change stuff IF there is science behind it. Because people are just people… SCIENCE is purely objective and never steers you down the wrong path… /s Seriously, though, if it leads to some changes, this is great having hard data to back up what many of us already intuitively know.

But I was going to say the same as others here. It’s still hard to deal with. I think it’s a kind of trauma that is just glossed over in society, because it doesn’t seem so very bad to most adults, even those who experienced it themselves.

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And kicking the victims out of school…


Faith? Or just common-sense human empathy?

What often makes this worse is that the bully goes unpunished by the school or others, and if they are punished, it doesn’t change their behavior, not for the better anyway. Reporting them or them getting otherwise punished tends to make them worse and more canny about avoiding getting caught. This can lead to trust issues since if the authority figures can’t or won’t help, and if they do things get worse, what good are they?

Worse still is when the victims get punished for standing up to the bully or even putting them in their place. What kind of message does that send, especially to kids who wanted to stay out of trouble in the first place?


See Daedalus’s post above.

I think there’s been enough time to find better ways of organizing schools, with better education, for more students, and less abuse. But the people in charge choose these ways. And the people in charge are often social conservatives or just knee-jerk authoritarians, so they could easily see the bullying as a feature, not a bug, and keep approaches which enable bullying. Such as forcing students to undress around their bullies.

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