Exposure to bullying and general psychopathology: A prospective, longitudinal study

Jolien Rijlaarsdam*, Charlotte A.M. Cecil, J. Marieke Buil, Pol A.C. van Lier, Edward D. Barker

*Corresponding author for this work

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12 Citations (Scopus)
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Although there is mounting evidence that the experience of being bullied associates with both internalizing and externalizing symptoms, it is not known yet whether the identified associations are specific to these symptoms, or shared between them. The primary focus of this study is to assess the prospective associations of bullying exposure with both general and specific (i.e., internalizing, externalizing) factors of psychopathology. This study included data from 6,210 children participating in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC). Child bullying was measured by self-report at ages 8 and 10 years. Child psychopathology symptoms were assessed by parent-interview, using the Development and Well-being Assessment (DAWBA) at ages 7 and 13 years. Bullying exposure significantly associated with the general psychopathology factor in early adolescence. In particular, chronically victimized youth exposed to multiple forms of bullying (i.e., both overt and relational) showed higher levels of general psychopathology. Bullying exposure also associated with both internalizing and externalizing factors from the correlated-factors model. However, the effect estimates for these factors decreased considerably in size and dropped to insignificant for the internalizing factor after extracting the shared variance that belongs to the general factor of psychopathology. Using an integrative longitudinal model, we found that higher levels of general psychopathology at age 7 also associated with bullying exposure at age 8 which, in turn, associated with general psychopathology at age 13 through its two-year continuity. Findings suggest that exposure to bullying is a risk factor for a more general vulnerability to psychopathology.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)727-736
Number of pages10
JournalResearch on Child and Adolescent Psychopathology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 22 Jan 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was specifically funded by research awards from the National Institute of Child and Human Development (R01HD068437) and the Economic and Social Research Council (ES/R005516/1) to E.D. Barker. The work of J. Rijlaarsdam was supported by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO ZonMw VENI, grant No 91618147). The work of C.A.M. Cecil has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement (grant No 707404).

Publisher Copyright: © 2021, The Author(s).


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