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Bullying is most often discussed as being an adolescence issue and left behind once out of high school. Research now indicates that effects of bullying may linger well into early adulthood.

Allison Dempsey, doctoral student, University of Florida College of Education, studied the effects of bullying on 210 college students. Primarily, Dempsey asked participants about their experiences during high school to see if there were any links with a current sense of loneliness, depression, and anxiety. She found there is a link between adolescence victimization and developing depression and anxiety in early adulthood.

Rather than physical threats alone, Dempsey included rumors, gossip, and social shunning as tactics of bullies because of their relationship with psychological symptoms.

Co-author, Eric Storch, PhD, assistant professor of psychiatry, University of Florida College of Medicine, was also interested if ‘friends’ mitigated the effects of bullying. He found that:

  • Aggression can be physical and/or emotional.
  • Boys tend to bully physically.
  • Boys and girls participate in relational (social) bullying.
  • Having friends did not lessen rates of depression and anxiety in adulthood.
  • Friendships that provide positive support can help a child be more resilient to the slings and arrows from bullies.
  • Children can take the words and abuse more to heart and begin to believe what is being said about them.
  • Victims of bullying tend to avoid interactions and situations (even when they would be positive).

Dempsey graduated from Columbine High School a year before the shootings took place and now studies school prevention programs. She feels that many people see bullying and victimization as a passage of rite in high school and because of the complexity of the problem one that is difficult to stop. However, reducing the problem will help a tremendous amount.

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