Bullied kids are more likely to suffer from mental health problems than abused kids. That’s the findings of a recent study comparing the mental health of bullied and abused kids, respectively.

British researchers, who published their findings in “Lancet Psychiatry,” reviewed data from two long term studies: the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children in the United Kingdom (ALSPAC) and the Great Smoky Mountains Study in the United States (GSMS).

From blackmail to theft

In the ALSPAC study of 4026 kids, which started in 1991, physical, emotional or sexual abuse was assessed between eight weeks and eight-point-six years, as reported by the mother via questionnaires.

Bullying was assessed by asking the child at ages 8, 10 and 13 years, with the Bullying and Friendship Interview Schedule looking at bullying threats like threats or blackmail, theft, physical violence, nasty names and nasty tricks, as well as relational bullying such as social exclusion, coercive behavior, spreading lies or rumors and deliberately spoiling games. The ALSPAC survey was adjusted for sex, family adversity during pregnancy and any prenatal maternal mental health problems, including anxiety and/or depression.

In the U.S. study of 1420 children, which started in 1993, maltreatment and bullying were assessed annually with parent and child interviews between ages nine and 16 with up to eight assessments. The GSMS study was adjusted for sex, socioeconomic status, family instability and family dysfunction.

The price we pay

The two studies found kids who were bullied by peers but were not abused, were more likely to have mental health problems than abused-only kids.

Compared with kids who weren’t abused or bullied:

  • The ALSPAC study found British kids who were abused but not bullied, were not at increased risk for any mental health problems.

  • In the GSMS study, American kids who were abused and not bullied were at increased risk for depression in young adulthood.

The study, after reviewing both English and American kids, found forty percent of kids who were abused were also bullied. They surmise being a victim can make a child susceptible to other victimizations.

Both studies found kids who were abused and bullied had increased risk for overall mental health problems, including anxiety and depression. Abused and bullied kids in the ALSPAC study were also more likely to be at risk for self-harm.