People who were bullied throughout childhood and adolescence are more likely than others to engage in delinquent or criminal behavior later in life, a new study finds.
In the new research, scientists found that about 14 percent of those who reported suffering repeated bullying through their childhood and teenage years — up to 18 years of age — wound up serving time in prison as adults. In comparison, 6 percent of people who did not experience bullying ended up in prison.
"Most studies focus on a relatively narrow period of the life course, but I looked at victimization from birth to age 18 and then associated that with legal outcomes — whether they got involved with substance abuse, got arrested, convicted or were sent to incarceration," said Michael Turner, an associate professor in the department of criminal justice and criminology at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte.
In his analysis, Turner found that compared with nonbullied individuals, victims of bullying had higher rates of criminal conviction. More than 20 percent of those who were bullied throughout childhood and adolescence were convicted of crimes, compared with 11 percent of nonvictims. Sixteen percent of individuals who experienced childhood bullying, up to age 12, were convicted of crimes, with 13 percent of victims who were bullied during adolescence (from age 12 to 18) experiencing similar legal outcomes later in life. "But chronic victims — those who were bullied in childhood and adolescence — had the highest odds of adverse legal outcomes."
Turner presented the findings at the American Psychological Association's 121st Annual Convention.