Childhood bullying can affect psychological functions in college students

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childhood bullying

It is not rare that children get bullied at school or in community. The physical and verbal abuse can hurt children’s mental health and cause many emotional problems.

Now scientists show that childhood bullying can have long-lasting influences on people’s psychological health in their college years. The finding is published in Social Psychology of Education.

The research was conducted by University of Illinois in the US, Sungkyunkwan University in South Korea, and Marine Corps Community Services in Japan.

Researchers recruited 482 college students. Among the participants, 65% were women, 66% were European-American, 17% were African-American, 22% were freshmen, 38% were sophomores, 16% were juniors, and 23% were seniors.

All participants completed a survey about their childhood bullying experiences (as victims) and their current psychological health conditions.

The result showed that greater bullying experiences in childhood could predict higher levels of depression, anxiety, and PTSD. In particular, female bullied in childhood had more emotional damage than their male peers.

Furthermore, participants had the highest risk of being bullied in other ways and having PTSD if they had experienced one interpersonal trauma. 

Researchers suggest that college students’ mental distress might be partly connected with their perceptions about their childhood bullying experience. When they search for psychological help, they may have been bullied more than once in the past.

This means that social workers and psychiatrists providing professional help should carefully check the past bullying experiences and traumas the students have. They should also identify students who have the highest risk of mental health problems due to bullying.

Researchers also suggest that universities should provide courses about bullying and strategies to cope with the trauma caused by bullying. For young children, schools and parents should take actions to reduce/prevent bullying.


Citation: Espelage DL, et al. (2016). Recollections of childhood bullying and multiple forms of victimization: correlates with psychological functioning among college students. Social Psychology of Education, published online. doi: 10.1007/s11218-016-9352-z.
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