European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry

, Volume 24, Issue 12, pp 1461–1471 | Cite as

Bully/victims: a longitudinal, population-based cohort study of their mental health

  • Suzet Tanya Lereya
  • William E. Copeland
  • Stanley Zammit
  • Dieter Wolke
Original Contribution


It has been suggested that those who both bully and are victims of bullying (bully/victims) are at the highest risk of adverse mental health outcomes. However, unknown is whether most bully/victims were bullies or victims first and whether being a bully/victim is more detrimental to mental health than being a victim. A total of 4101 children were prospectively studied from birth, and structured interviews and questionnaires were used to assess bullying involvement at 10 years (elementary school) and 13 years of age (secondary school). Mental health (anxiety, depression, psychotic experiences) was assessed at 18 years. Most bully/victims at age 13 (n = 233) had already been victims at primary school (pure victims: n = 97, 41.6 % or bully/victims: n = 47, 20.2 %). Very few of the bully/victims at 13 years had been pure bullies previously (n = 7, 3 %). After adjusting for a wide range of confounders, both bully/victims and pure victims, whether stable or not from primary to secondary school, were at increased risk of mental health problems at 18 years of age. In conclusion, children who are bully/victims at secondary school were most likely to have been already bully/victims or victims at primary school. Children who are involved in bullying behaviour as either bully/victims or victims at either primary or secondary school are at increased risk of mental health problems in late adolescence regardless of the stability of victimization. Clinicians should consider any victimization as a risk factor for mental health problems.


Bully/victims Anxiety Depression Psychotic experiences ALSPAC 



We are extremely grateful to all the families who took part in this study, the midwives for their help in recruiting them, and the whole ALSPAC team, which includes interviewers, computer and laboratory technicians, clerical workers, research scientists, volunteers, managers, receptionists and nurses. The UK Medical Research Council and the Wellcome Trust (Grant ref: 102215/2/13/2) and the University of Bristol provide core support for ALSPAC. Drs. Lereya and Wolke had full access to all the data in the study and take responsibility for the integrity of the data and the accuracy of the data analysis. Drs. Lereya and Wolke’s work on this study was supported by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) grant ES/K003593/1. Dr. Copeland’s work was supported by the National Institute of Mental Health (MH63970, MH63671, MH48085), the National Institute on Drug Abuse (DA/MH11301), NARSAD (Early Career Award), and the William T Grant Foundation. The funding bodies did not have any further role in the collection, analysis or interpretation of data, the writing of this manuscript, or the decision to submit this manuscript for publication. None of the authors have any conflicts of interest in relation to this work. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and it does not reflect the views of the ALSPAC executive. Ethical approval for the study was obtained from the ALSPAC Ethics and Law Committee and the Local Research Ethics Committees. The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

787_2015_705_MOESM1_ESM.docx (21 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 21 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Suzet Tanya Lereya
    • 1
  • William E. Copeland
    • 2
  • Stanley Zammit
    • 3
  • Dieter Wolke
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of WarwickCoventryUK
  2. 2.Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral SciencesDuke University Medical CenterDurhamUSA
  3. 3.Institute of Psychological Medicine and Clinical NeurosciencesCardiff UniversityCardiffUK
  4. 4.Division of Mental Health and Wellbeing, Department of PsychologyUniversity of WarwickCoventryUK

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