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People Who Were Bullied Are More Likely to Be Arrested

Update Date: Aug 02, 2013 11:18 AM EDT

Regardless of where people grow up, there is usually a bully in every grade that makes life difficult. Even though government programs, agencies and schools have recently taken a stand against all forms of bullying, it still looms large in schools. Although bullies have the reputation of being bad people, a new study found that victims of bullying are the ones with a higher chance of being arrested in adulthood.

For this study, researchers looked at a data set composed on 7,335 teenagers within the age range of 12 to 16 in 1996. These participants had entered the 1997 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, which monitored the teenagers for 14 years studying the transition from adolescence to adulthood. The researchers calculated that 15 percent of the participants were bullied in childhood, six percent were bullied after the age of 12 and five percent stated that they were victims of bullying in both their childhood and teenage years.

The researchers discovered that the participants who were bullied throughout the majority of their early life were more likely to turn to drugs. These participants reported more substance abuse and crimes than other young adults that were bullied less or were not bullied at all. The researchers found that around 14 percent of the participants who were bullied from childhood and into the teens ended up in prison. The percentage of people who were not bullied at all but were imprisoned was six percent. The researchers also reported that women were more likely to be bullied than men, and thus, they were more likely to abuse alcohol, use drugs, and end up in prison.

"Males and females are different," the associate professor with the Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte and lead investigator of the study, Michael Turner, said reported by NPR. "Females tend to be a little more vulnerable."

Turner added, "The walkaway from this being a victim regardless of the time is pretty strongly associated with subsequent legal problems. But it was the chronic victims who experienced the highest odds of subsequent involvement in the system."

The researchers noted that they did not ask the victims if they were ever bullies themselves. The researchers also did not ask for the type of bullying that the victims received. Even though these factors were not clarified in this study, the researchers believe that more needs to be done in regards to bullying because the effects it has on the victims are real. The researchers stressed that early intervention is vital in preventing victims of bullying from turning to risky behaviors that might result in imprisonment.

"We have to catch them early," Turner stressed. "Victimization tends to peak in fifth, sixth, seventh grade. We have to intervene early in the life course and over a sustained period."

The study was presented at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association in Honolulu, HI. 

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