Why the Effects of Bullying Can Last a Lifetime
It is extremely disturbing that a term such as “bullycide” exists. It suggests that the link between bullying and suicide is common enough to merit its own word. Unfortunately, research on the long-term consequences of bullying supports this connection—bullying is consistently associated with current and future physical and mental health problems, as well as academic difficulties. Studies show that about 30 per cent of children are bullied by their peers. For 10 per cent of these children, the abuse they endure occurs on a daily basis. These statistics highlight the urgent need to reduce bullying in Canadian schools.
Dr. Tracy Vaillancourt, Canada Research Chair in Children’s Mental Health and Violence Prevention, is examining the biological underpinnings of bullying. She aims to better understand why bullying hurts so much, and why, for many, the hurt persists into adulthood—long after the abuse has ended.
Vaillancourt’s research will help explain why the brain experiences being bullied in a similar way as it experiences physical pain. It will also explain how bullying is linked to changes in stress response, and how certain genetic profiles can place some bullied children at greater risk for poorer health and learning outcomes.
Research shows that the experience of being bullied has lasting effects on biological functioning. This, in turn, poses risks for future health and learning problems.
Vaillancourt’s research will help lead to strategies that make reducing bullying a priority.