Bullied pupils left with lasting scars

29th August 2003 at 01:00
A PUPIL who confessed that they would "rather die than go back to school after the summer break" is likely to face long-term consequences from being constantly harassed, according to the first piece of research to examine the effects of childhood bullying in later life.

The Bully Box website of the Anti-Bullying Network, run by Andrew Mellor at Edinburgh University, contains harrowing messages from children suffering at the hands of classmates. Hard evidence now shows that the damage will last for years.

A study of nearly 17,000 people born in April 1970, including Scotland, carried out by Karen Robson at the Institute for Social and Economic Research at Essex University, has shown that bullied 10-year-olds suffer mental health difficulties almost 20 years later.

Bullied children often find it difficult to form intimate adult relationships, are less likely to achieve educationally and less likely to do well in their careers. They are more depressed as adults.

Ms Robson observes: "Individuals who failed to integrate into their peer group as children may view scholastic institutions as settings for uncomfortable and unpleasant social exchanges, and therefore minimised their exposure to potentially negative experiences by not pursuing extended educational careers.

"The findings here suggest that failure to integrate into one's peer group has lasting effects."

Rather surprisingly, her findings show that bullied children can later find solace and recognition by joining voluntary groups such as churches and political parties where it is suggested that social contact requires less emotional investment. They are less likely to be rejected.

Children were more likely to be bullied at the age of 10 if they were disabled, overweight and had had a behaviourial problem at the age of five.

Girls who had a close relationship with their mother were less likely to be bullied.

In Scotland, the anti-bullying network continues to be swamped by cries for help from pupils, parents and teachers. "The demand is ever growing," Mr Mellor said.

He believes the Essex research confirms anecdotal evidence from years of dealing with real concerns. "Bullying can drive people close to the edge of despair but in the long term it changes lives in the sense that people do not achieve their potential academically and can have severe relationship problems throughout their lives. This seems to be related to what happened in their childhood," he said.

The network is to publish a guide for schools on legal obligations to tackle bullying and protect children. Its site is at www.antibullying. net.

The Essex research is at www.iser.essex.ac.uk.


* "Kids in my class are leaving threatening messages on my mobile phone."

* "Should you tell if you are being bullied? Would it make it worse?"

* "I've watched my friend get bullied for the past year and it hurts me more every day."

* "I am so unhappy I could easily go home today and kill myself."

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