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The Effects of Being a Bully

How Being a Bully Affects Future Development

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Updated June 10, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Boy (11-12) being picked on by friends
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Question: I've heard about the short-term and long-range effects of being bullied, but what are the effects of being a bully?

Answer: Being a bully in childhood increases the risk of many negative outcomes. First, people who are or were bullies are more likely to drop out of school than their peers. They are also at increased risk of experiencing depression and psychological distress, especially if they face up to the seriousness of their bullying behavior. In addition, bullies are more likely to develop an anxiety disorder and to abuse substances, including tobacco, alcohol and marijuana.

Being a bully also increases the odds of future run-ins with the law. By their mid-twenties, former bullies have more traffic violations and four times the rate of criminal behavior than their non-bullying peers. By their mid-thirties, 60% of people who bullied in grades 6 through 9 have at least one criminal conviction. Former bullies are also more likely to carry weapons than non-bullies and may develop antisocial personality disorder.

Finally, being a bully in childhood seems to impact their adult home life. Former bullies tend to have problems with long-term relationships and may be abusive toward both their spouse and children. They also have a harder time securing and maintaining employment than people who had not been bullies. Finally, people who had been bullies are more likely to have children who become bullies themselves, thus beginning the cycle all over again.

Source:

Smokowski, Paul R., and Kopasz, Kelly Holland. Bullying in school: An overview of types, effects, family characteristics, and intervention strategies. 2005. Children & Schools. 27,2: 101-110.

Vanderbilt, Douglas, and Augustyn, Marilyn. The effects of bullying. 2010. Pediatrics and Child Health. 20,7: 315-320.

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