While the effects of bullying and the sometimes devastating impact on victims’ lives have been well-documented, University of Warwick researchers found that children who are involved in bullying — as both a victim and bully — are three times more likely to have suicidal thoughts by the time they reach 11 years old.

The researchers analyzed data of more than 6,000 children that was part of a study from the University of Bristol called “Children of the 90s.” The Warwick researchers found that children who are both victims and bullies — also known as bully-victims — are “at highly increased risk of considering suicide or have planned and engaged in suicidal or self-harming behavior” by the time they reach ages 11 or 12.

“Our study findings suggest that suicide-related behavior is a serious problem for pre-adolescent youth,” said study author Dieter Wolke.  “4.8 percent of this community population reported suicidal thoughts, and 4.6 percent reported suicidal or self-injurious behavior. Health practitioners should be aware of the relationship between bullying and suicide and should recognize the very real risks that may be evident earlier in development than commonly thought. Targeting intervention schemes from primary school onward is paramount and could help to prevent chronic exposure to bullying, which is especially harmful.”

When compared with children who were never bullied, “bully-victims” were three times as likely to have suicidal thoughts. Those bullied over long periods of time were six times more likely to consider suicide.

The researchers also found that “pure bullies,” who bully others but don’t become victims themselves, were at an increased risk for suicide thoughts and suicidal or self-harming behavior as well, but these findings were not as consistent.

Source: University of Warwick

Heather Rudow is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Email her at hrudow@counseling.org.

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