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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Columbia: Bullying Others Increases the Risk of Developing Mental Health Problems and Vice Versa

A Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health study suggests there is a two-way relationship between bullying perpetration and mental health problems among U.S. youth.  Researchers report that bullying perpetration increased the risk of developing internalizing problems, and having internalizing problems increased the probability of bullying others.

“While it is well documented that bullying victimization is associated with immediate and life-long mental health problems, no studies have examined the hypothesis that the relationship may be bidirectional,” said Dr. Marine Azevedo Da Silva, postdoctoral researcher at Columbia Mailman.

The researchers analyzed data from 13,200 youths aged 12-17 years in the Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health survey. Among them, 79 percent reported they never bullied others, 11 percent reported bullying others over a year ago, and 10 percent bullied others in the past year. Additionally, 16 percent had bullied others over a month ago, and 5 percent bullied others in the past month.

When examining the relationship between bullying perpetration as a predictor of internalizing problems, they found that youths who reported being the perpetrators of bullying were more likely to develop a moderate to high incidence of mental health problems, and that adolescents who experienced moderate to high internalizing problems had increased risk of bullying others.

“Our findings provide an important extension to previous literature, and indicate that bullying behaviors prevention and intervention strategies should consider how to take into account and handle negative feelings and mental health problems,” said Dr. Silvia Martins, director of the Mailman Substance Abuse Epidemiology Unit  and senior author.

Read more in Journal of Adolescent Health.

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