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Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology

, Volume 42, Issue 8, pp 1313–1324 | Cite as

Bullying Victimisation, Internalising Symptoms, and Conduct Problems in South African Children and Adolescents: A Longitudinal Investigation

  • Mark E. BoyesEmail author
  • Lucy Bowes
  • Lucie D. Cluver
  • Catherine L. Ward
  • Nicholas A. Badcock
Article

Abstract

Bullying victimisation has been prospectively linked with mental health problems among children and adolescents in longitudinal studies in the developed world. However, research from the developing world, where adolescents face multiple risks to social and emotional development, has been limited by cross-sectional designs. This is the first longitudinal study of the psychological impacts of bullying victimisation in South Africa. The primary aim was to examine prospective relationships between bullying victimisation and internalising and externalising symptoms in South African youth. Secondary aims were to examine gender and age-related differences in experiences of bullying victimisation. Children and adolescents (10–17 years, 57 % female, n = 3,515) from high HIV-prevalent (>30 %) communities in South Africa were interviewed and followed-up 1 year later (97 % retention). Census enumeration areas were randomly selected from urban and rural sites in two provinces and door-to-door sampling included all households with a resident child/adolescent. Exposure to multiple experiences of bullying victimisation at baseline predicted internalising symptoms and conduct problems 1 year later. Additionally, baseline mental health scores predicted later bullying victimisation, demonstrating bi-directionality of relationships between bullying victimisation and mental health outcomes in this sample. Expected gender differences in physical, verbal, and relational bullying victimisation were evident and predicted declines in bullying victimisation over time were observed. In the developed world, school-based anti-bullying programmes have been shown to be effective in reducing bullying and victimisation. Anti-bullying programmes should be implemented and rigorously evaluated in South Africa, as this may promote improved mental health among South African children and adolescents.

Keywords

Bullying Victimisation Anxiety Depression Adolescent Gender South Africa 

Notes

Acknowledgments

This study was funded by the UK Economic and Social Research Council, the South African National Research Foundation, the Health Economics and HIV/AIDS Research Division (HEARD) at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, the South African National Department of Social Development, the Claude Leon Foundation, the John Fell Fund, and the Nuffield Foundation. The authors wish to thank the South African fieldwork teams and all the participants and their families.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mark E. Boyes
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Lucy Bowes
    • 2
  • Lucie D. Cluver
    • 2
    • 3
  • Catherine L. Ward
    • 4
    • 5
  • Nicholas A. Badcock
    • 6
  1. 1.Health Psychology and Behavioural Medicine Research Group, School of Psychology and Speech PathologyCurtin UniversityPerthWestern Australia
  2. 2.Centre for Evidence-Based Intervention, Department of Social Policy and InterventionUniversity of OxfordOxfordUnited Kingdom
  3. 3.Department of Psychiatry and Mental HealthUniversity of Cape TownCape TownSouth Africa
  4. 4.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Cape TownCape TownSouth Africa
  5. 5.Safety and Violence InitiativeUniversity of Cape TownCape TownSouth Africa
  6. 6.ARC Centre of Excellence in Cognition and its Disorders, Department of Cognitive ScienceMacquarie UniversitySydneyAustralia

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