Most research into teen bullying tends to focus only on the victim. This means we know little about how the bully is affected. A new Australian study shows that teenagers who have been both a victim and a bully are at greatest risk of mental health problems, including self-harm and suicidal thoughts.
Bullies are victims too
When it comes to bullying, there is a common misconception that adolescents neatly fall into a category of bully, victim, or not involved. But this is not the case.
In fact, three-quarters of the adolescents who reported that they had bullied others were also victims of bullying.
The study asked 3,500 14-to-15-year-old Australian teenagers – who were participants in the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC) – whether they had experienced any of 13 different types of bullying behaviour in the past month.
This included being hit or kicked on purpose, called names, or forced to do something they didn’t want to do.
The participants were asked if they had bullied anyone in the last month using the same bullying behaviours.
LSAC also included questions about whether teenagers had self-harmed, had suicidal thoughts, and whether they had made a plan to attempt suicide.
One-third of teenagers reported that they had either bullied, been a victim of bullying, or both (bully-victim).
On the whole, all three groups were more likely to report self-harm, suicidal thoughts and a plan for suicide than those who were not involved in bullying.