Would bullying increase the risk of having psychosis later on? Psychol Med. Dec.2012.


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.


One thought on “Would bullying increase the risk of having psychosis later on? Psychol Med. Dec.2012.

  1. Yes bullying is likely to produce a psychosis later if the individual is a schizoid personality and not in a normal euthymic person. Bullying is so common in schools and in that case half the population of the schoolchildren should suffer. In almost all the schizophrenics, the premorbid personality is co conducive for the mischievous child to tease them and so the history of a bullying will be present in almost all schizophrenics.

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