School bullying is a common problem, studies indicate 10% of children are subjected to this. Bullying is defined as behaviour between individuals of the same age group that is intended to cause harm or distress (Olweus, 1996). Traumatic experiences like sexual and physical abuse are shown to be linked to psychotic symptoms (clinical and non clinical) later on.
Would bullying increase the risk of having psychosis later on? D.S van Dam and colleagues from Netherlands address this issue with their metaanalysis. 14 studies were included in the analysis.
Bullying and non clinical psychotic symptoms: 8/10 studies found a significant association between bullying and non clinical psychotic symptoms .Studies also suggest that more bullying might lead to more persistent symptoms. A dose response relationship is observed. Meta analysis with adjusted ORs (six studies) yielded a mean-weighted OR of 2.3 (95% CI 1.5–3.4).
Bullying and clinical psychosis: Only a few studies have reported on the association between bullying and psychotic disorders . Bebbington et al. (2004) showed that the psychosis group was about four times more likely to report a history of being bullied. However, after adjustment for other negative life events, this effect disappeared. Sourander et al. (2007) found that the bully-victim status at age 8 years predicted psychotic disorders in early adulthood among men. However, when controlled for parental education and baseline general and behavioral symptomatology, this effect was no longer significant. Luukkonen et al. (2010) found that psychotic disorders were not significantly associated with bullying behavior compared with no bullying in adolescence.
Conclusions: Population-based non-clinical studies support the role of bullying in the subsequent development of psychotic symptoms. Stronger associations are found with increased frequency, severity and persistence of bullying. However, the clinical studies, do not allow any conclusion concerning this association.
There are various ways how bullying might be associated with psychotic symptoms 1.Bullying may be a developmental marker for the risk of psychosis i.e. poor social adjustment in childhood ( which increase risk of psychosis) lead to bullying. 2. Bullying generate negative schemas of the self and the world and hyper vigilance to hostile cues.3. Bullying alter the HPA axis functioning.
Authors conclude that research ‘too sparse and may lack power to draw definitive conclusions’ regarding childhood bullying and psychotic disorders.
Summary of the article:
Childhood bullying and the association with psychosis in non-clinical and clinical samples: a review and meta-analysis. van Dam DS, van der Ven E, Velthorst E, Selten JP, Morgan C, de Haan L.Psychol Med. 2012 Dec.