How do bullies and the bullied do later in life?

From the author of the large systematic review on effects of school based anti-bullying programs David Farrington and colleagues come a new important report on how the bullied and the bullies do later in life.

Based on analyses of 24 longitudinal studies, Farrington and colleagues conclude that being a bully increases the chance that you later in life behave offensive (violently) towards other by more than a half. Furthermore, being bullied increases the risk of experiencing (clinical) depression later in life also by more than a half. The study has controlled for other confounding childhood factors. It was also found that the ones who have been bullied, have a small increased likelihood of becoming offensive (10%), whereas the bullies have a somewhat elevated risk of becoming depressed (+30%). These findings confirm that bullies and exposed have different but substantial risks of negative psychosocial developments.

What this means is that children and youngsters who bully are more likely seen as abusive adults. And those who are being bullied at younger age are more likely to experience depression. There are no conclusions as to wether bullying or being bullied leads to these later negative outcomes, only that they are more often found in the same people. Farrington and colleagues argue that both bullying and later offensive behavior may be caused by other more basic factors, like general aggressive tendencies in the personality. It is less likely however that later depression in the bullied can be attributed to personality.

David P. Farrington, O.B.E., is Emeritus Professor of Psychological Criminology at the Institute of Criminology, Cambridge University.


The meta-study has been sponsored by Swedish Council of Crime Prevention