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Bullying May Raise Risk of Children’s Psychotic Symptoms

Last Updated: May 06, 2009.

Victims of childhood bullying may face a higher risk of displaying psychotic symptoms in early adolescence, according to research published in the May Archives of General Psychiatry.

WEDNESDAY, May 6 (HealthDay News) -- Victims of childhood bullying may face a higher risk of displaying psychotic symptoms in early adolescence, according to research published in the May Archives of General Psychiatry.

Andrea Schreier, Ph.D., of the University of Warwick in Coventry, United Kingdom, and colleagues analyzed data from 6,437 children in a prospective cohort study. The children's history of being bullied was assessed using personal interviews and parent and teacher reports at ages 8 and 10, and psychosis-like symptoms were assessed in the children at a mean age of 12.9.

The researchers found that children who had been bullied had nearly double the risk of psychotic symptoms (odds ratio, 1.94); a similar relationship was found when using teachers' and mothers' reports of bullying. Bullying that was long-term or severe was linked to stronger associations with psychotic symptoms (odds ratios up to 4.60).

"Whether repeated victimization experiences alter cognitive and affective processing or reprogram stress response or whether psychotic symptoms are more likely due to genetic predisposition still needs to be determined in further research. A major implication is that chronic or severe peer victimization has nontrivial, adverse, long-term consequences," the authors write. "Reduction of peer victimization and of the resulting stress caused to victims could be a worthwhile target for prevention and early intervention efforts for common mental health problems and psychosis."

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