Bullied children more prone to self-harm later in life, study shows


Denise Fergus, the mother of murdered two-year-old James Bulger, attends a press conference on March 14, 2008, in Liverpool, England, to launch an appeal to raise funds for bullied children in memory of her son. James Bulger was beaten to death by Jon Venables and Robert Thompson, who were 10 years old in 1993.


Christopher Furlong

Children bullied during their early years are up to three times more likely to hurt themselves than their classmates when they reach adolescence, a study suggests.

According to, researchers studied more than 1,000 pairs of twins at ages 5, 7, 10 and 12. The children, who were born in 1994 and 1995 in England and Wales, were assessed for risk of self-harm in the six months before their 12th birthday.

The study found that half of 12-year-olds who self harm were frequently bullied, according to BBC News. The researchers involved in the study, which was published in the British Medical Journal, are calling for more effective programs in school to prevent bullying.

The research also showed that children who are victimized and have mental health difficulties or come from troubled families are at greater risk of resorting to destructive behavior, reported the Press Association. This could also have serious long-term effects later in life.

"Bullying by peers is a major problem during the early school years," they said. "This study found that before 12 years of age a small proportion of children frequently exposed to this form of victimization already deliberately harmed themselves and in some cases attempted to take their own lives. Frequent victimization by peers increased the risk of self harm," the study said, according to PA.

"This finding is even more concerning given that studies have suggested that early patterns of self harm can persist through adolescence into adulthood and increase the risk of later psychological problems. Therefore, such maladaptive coping strategies need to be tackled in childhood and early adolescence before they become a persistent problem or lead to serious injury or death."

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