Well, yet another infuriating study about the long-term affects of bullying, albeit with a twist, has just been released.
However, let’s be clear. The bullying targets have a much harder time as adults than the bullies, with significantly higher rates of disease, job troubles, and poor relationships with family and friends.
Study co-author William Copeland, an associate professor at Duke University School of Medicine, was quoted by NPR’s Shots as saying, "What we saw for them was this really pervasive pattern where they were impaired across a lot of areas."
This is so sad, and it feels kind of hopeless. For a variety of reasons I’ve been thinking about the residual affects of childhood trauma, and I guess the good news is that studies such as this reinforce the need for early intervention. Of course, adults have to recognize the problem first, and many still don’t. Or won’t. I’m not sure which.
For example, I read through a bunch of comments to Shots' article and was somewhat surprised by those (presumed) adults who responded by blaming the victim, wondering out loud what he did to get someone’s ire up. (Was he too fat? Too socially awkward? Too disabled?) And then there are those who question the study’s validity, suggesting that perhaps there’s a correlation between being bullied as a child and a later higher incidence disease but no proof of a causal relationship.
I suppose they’re being good little scientists, but frankly I don’t give a flying fig whether there’s causation or merely a strong correlation. Because between the study, the testimonies of those who’ve been bullied as children, and my memory, I’ve got all the proof I need.
Still, others disagree. One commenter wrote:
To which I say—for God’s sake dude, put down that copy of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species before you hurt yourself! A “weak” child (whatever the heck that means) later grows into a “weak” (i.e., susceptible to disease adult)? And that’s more plausible than believing that someone who’s been abused could suffer ill health as a result? Come on.
Listen, I’m no therapist, and maybe a therapist could straighten me out.
But I tend to think that since humans are social beings, marked social disapproval (not to mention physical and verbal mistreatment) weighs heavy on a child and later contributes to (if not causes) all kinds of lingering feelings of worthlessness, helplessness, hopelessness, and self-doubt. It really doesn’t seem that complicated to me. But again, I’m open to hearing something different from a qualified individual.
In the meantime, bullying is wrong, okay? It’s not a harmless activity that all kids must endure during the normal course of development and can then just forget about.
If you’re an adult with some authority and are receiving complaints about bullying, for crying out loud listen up and do something. It’s the only responsible response.