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Bullies and Victims at Risk of Mental Health Illnesses

Update Date: Jan 14, 2014 09:45 AM EST

For young children and adolescents, bullying can be a norm at school. Children who face bullying can suffer mental health illnesses especially if they do not seek help. Not only are victims of bullying at risk, a new study is reporting that bullies are also at risk of developing mental health issues.

For this study, the researchers from the University of Queensland located in Australia examined the mental health of 17-year-old students who were involved in some kind of peer aggression when they were 14-years-old. The researchers had data on three specific groups of adolescents, which were victims, perpetrators and victim-perpetrators. The last group of children consisted of individuals who were both victims and bullies. These three groups made up roughly 40.2 percent of the study's sample.

The researchers found that 10 percent of the sample stated that they were victims of bullying and 20 percent of the children state that they were bullies. When it came to gender, girls were twice as likely to report suffering from depression in comparison to guys.

The researchers discovered that for bullies, these adolescents tended to externalize their behaviors by picking up bad habits such as drinking and illegal drug use. These teenagers were also more likely to have interpersonal violence and were at risk of developing anti-social behaviors later on in life. For victims, the researchers found that these adolescents were more likely to develop internalizing behaviors, which include but are not limited to depression, social withdrawal and anxiety.

"Victim-perpetrators were at risk of developing a wide range of mental health issues, such as anxiety, depression, substance abuse and anti-social behaviors," Dr. James Scott, a UQ Center for Clinical Research Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, said according to Medical Xpress.

The researchers reported that victim-perpetrators had the highest risk of mental health issues out of the three groups. They also had the highest risk of having poor psychosocial functioning.

Scott added, "Just because the bullying has stopped doesn't necessarily mean everything is going OK. Every school should have a strategy in place to reduce bullying. Teenagers who have been victims or are engaged in bullying behaviors need ongoing monitoring of their mental health."

The study, "Adolescent peer aggression and its association with mental health and substance use in an Australian cohort," was published in the Journal of Adolescence."

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