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Bullying victimization in youths and mental health problems: ‘Much ado about nothing’?

  • L. Arseneault (a1), L. Bowes (a1) and S. Shakoor (a1)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 29 September 2009

Bullying victimization is a topic of concern for youths, parents, school staff and mental health practitioners. Children and adolescents who are victimized by bullies show signs of distress and adjustment problems. However, it is not clear whether bullying is the source of these difficulties. This paper reviews empirical evidence to determine whether bullying victimization is a significant risk factor for psychopathology and should be the target of intervention and prevention strategies. Research indicates that being the victim of bullying (1) is not a random event and can be predicted by individual characteristics and family factors; (2) can be stable across ages; (3) is associated with severe symptoms of mental health problems, including self-harm, violent behaviour and psychotic symptoms; (4) has long-lasting effects that can persist until late adolescence; and (5) contributes independently to children's mental health problems. This body of evidence suggests that efforts aimed at reducing bullying victimization in childhood and adolescence should be strongly supported. In addition, research on explanatory mechanisms involved in the development of mental health problems in bullied youths is needed.

Corresponding author
*Address for correspondence: L. Arseneault, Ph.D., MRC Social, Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry Centre, Institute of Psychiatry, Box Number P080, De Crespigny Park, LondonSE5 8AF, UK. (Email:
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