Growing up, many of us experienced bullying, a hurtful behavior where someone intentionally harms others, often repeatedly and with an imbalance of power. This could be physical, like hitting, or verbal, such as name-calling. Even exclusion and spreading rumors count. Imagine being repeatedly threatened, insulted, or left out by your peers—it hurts. One in three kids goes through this, and 10-14% face chronic bullying for over six months.1 It’s more common than mistreatment by parents. It’s systematic abuse, and it takes a toll.
Funny enough, bystanders can help prevent bullying, but rarely do anything. Peer bystanders provide an audience 85% of instances of bullying. If you remove the audience bullying should stop2.
Bullies aren’t just troubled kids. They might be strong, popular, even emotionally intelligent. But victims? That’s a different story. Those who are withdrawn, easily upset, or have few friends to stand up for them become targets. It’s hard, feeling like you’re in a cage with others having a say over the group you’re in. Bullies establish dominance, sometimes turning others into henchmen, and conditions fostering hierarchy increase bullying. It’s like being trapped, with bullies using their power against those who react emotionally and lack support.
The effects? They linger. Imagine being a victim—higher risks of physical and psychological problems. More colds, headaches, stomach aches, and sleep issues. Smoking becomes tempting. Anxiety and depression may follow. Even self-harm or suicidal thoughts in adolescence. Being bullied in primary school predicts borderline personality symptoms and even hallucinations by adolescence. And the longer it lasts, the worse it gets.
But it’s not just victims who suffer. Bullies may seem healthier, but they can face issues too—increased risk of depression or self-harm. Bullying links to offending in adolescence, and bullies might display delinquent behavior. However, bully-victims, those bullied but also bullying others, face the most troubles. Impulsive, easily provoked, with low self-esteem, they may come from dysfunctional families. And the longer you endure bullying, the more it affects you. Chronically bullied individuals have a higher risk of psychiatric problems in childhood, creating a lasting impact.
So, how does this affect us later in life? Imagine being that kid who was bullied. It’s not just childhood pain; it’s a shadow that follows you into adulthood—your health, relationships, and even your wealth are affected. The scars of bullying, both seen and unseen, can shape your entire life. It’s time we understand the real, long-lasting impact of bullying.
10 Strange Ways Childhood Bullying Affects Adults
1. Social Anxiety Disorder:
Childhood bullying often results in social anxiety disorder, where individuals fear social situations due to past traumatic experiences. For instance, a person who was regularly ridiculed and isolated during school years may develop an aversion to social gatherings, struggle with forming connections, and experience intense anxiety in public settings.
2. Trust Issues:
Bullying can lead to deep-seated trust issues in adulthood. Imagine someone repeatedly betrayed and ridiculed by peers; this individual may find it challenging to trust others later in life, fearing rejection or betrayal. Trust issues can impact personal and professional relationships, hindering the ability to connect authentically with others.
The negative self-perception cultivated through childhood bullying can result in self-sabotaging behaviors in adulthood. For example, an individual who was constantly told they were incapable or unworthy may unconsciously undermine their own success, gravitating toward situations that reinforce their established negative beliefs.
4. Fear of Failure:
Constant criticism and belittlement during childhood bullying may instill a profound fear of failure in adulthood. Picture someone who experienced relentless negativity; this individual may avoid taking risks, pursuing goals, or stepping outside their comfort zone, fearing failure and the recurrence of past traumatic experiences.
5. Hypersensitivity to Criticism:
Harsh judgments received during childhood bullying can lead to hypersensitivity to criticism in adulthood. Consider a person who faced constant negativity; they might react strongly even to constructive feedback, viewing it through the lens of past trauma and reinforcing negative self-perceptions.
6. Procrastination and Perfectionism:
The fear of failure and the need for control resulting from childhood bullying can manifest as procrastination and perfectionism. For instance, an individual who experienced bullying might procrastinate on tasks, set unrealistic expectations, and feel extreme anxiety about meeting deadlines due to an ingrained fear of making mistakes.
7. Difficulty Accepting Compliments:
Bullied individuals often struggle to accept compliments in adulthood. Imagine someone who was consistently belittled; they might attribute positive feedback to luck or external factors, finding it difficult to internalize compliments due to the negative self-perception instilled by bullying.
8. Self-Isolation and Escapism:
Emotional pain and isolation from childhood bullying can lead to self-isolation and escapism in adulthood. For example, an individual who faced severe bullying may withdraw from social interactions, resorting to unhealthy coping mechanisms like substance use or entering into detrimental relationships to numb emotional pain.
9. Difficulty Expressing and Managing Emotions:
Suppression of emotions during childhood bullying can result in difficulty expressing and managing emotions in adulthood. Consider someone who learned to hide their feelings to avoid further victimization; they may struggle to articulate emotions, leading to emotional outbursts, poor communication, or suppressed feelings.
10. Unrealistic Expectations of Others:
Negative experiences from bullying can shape unrealistic expectations of others in adulthood. For instance, someone who constantly expected rejection and criticism may subconsciously create self-fulfilling prophecies, anticipating negative outcomes in relationships and reinforcing beliefs established during childhood trauma.
- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4552909/ ↩︎
- https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1053992.pdf ↩︎
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Olivia Mercie. (2023, November 21). 10 Strange Ways Childhood Bullying Affects Adults. EssayHelper.me. Retrieved from https://essayhelper.me/blog/10-strange-ways-childhood-bullying-affects-adults/