Peer-reported bullying, rejection and hallucinatory experiences in childhood

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Psychotic experiences, such as hallucinations, occur commonly in children and have been related to bullying victimization. However, whether bullying perpetration, peer rejection, or peer acceptance are related to hallucinatory experiences has remained under-examined. We used a novel peer nomination method to examine whether (i) bullying perpetration and (ii) social positions within peer networks were associated with future hallucinatory experiences.

This prospective study was embedded in the population-based Generation R Study. Bullying perpetration, peer rejection, and peer acceptance were assessed using peer nominations at age 7 years (N = 925). Using a social network analysis, we estimated social positions within peer rejection and acceptance networks. Bullying victimization was assessed using self-reports. Self-reported hallucinatory experiences were assessed at age 10 years. Analyses were adjusted for sociodemographic covariates.

Higher levels of bullying perpetration were prospectively associated with an increased burden of hallucinatory experiences (OR = 1.22, 95% CI 1.05–1.43, p = 0.011). Bullies had a 50% higher, and bully-victims had a 89% higher odds, of endorsing hallucinatory experiences three years later than children who were not involved in bullying (ORbully = 1.50, 95% CI 1.01–2.24, p = 0.045; ORbully-victim = 1.89, 95% CI 1.15–3.10, p = 0.012). Unfavorable positions within peer rejection networks, but not peer acceptance networks, were associated with an increased risk for hallucinatory experiences (ORpeer rejection = 1.24, 95% CI 1.07–1.44, pFDR-corrected = 0.024).

Using peer reports, we observed that bullies and socially rejected children have a higher likelihood to report hallucinatory experiences in pre-adolescence. Children who are both a bully and a victim of bullying (ie, bully-victims) may be particularly vulnerable for psychotic experiences.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)503-512
Number of pages10
JournalActa Psychiatrica Scandinavica
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2021

Bibliographical note

This work was supported by Erasmus Medical Centre (Mrace 2016 107569) to L. Steenkamp, H. Tiemeier, S. Kushner, M. Hillegers, L. Blanken, and K. Bolhuis; the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO-grant 016 VICI.170.200) to H. Tiemeier; Horizon2020 European Commission (ERA-PerMed2018-127) to S. Kushner; and the Sophia Children’s Hospital Research Foundation (research fellowship grant 921) to K. Bolhuis. The Generation R Study received financial support from the Erasmus Medical Centre; Erasmus University Rotterdam; The Netherlands Organisation for Health Research and Development (ZonMw). The authors gratefully acknowledge the contribution of all children and parents, general practitioners, hospitals, midwives, and pharmacies involved in the Generation R Study. The Generation R Study is conducted by the Erasmus Medical Centre (Rotterdam) in close collaboration with the School of Law and Faculty of Social Sciences of the Erasmus University Rotterdam; the Municipal Health Service Rotterdam area, Rotterdam; the Rotterdam Homecare Foundation, Rotterdam; and the Stichting Trombosedienst & Artsenlaboratorium Rijnmond, Rotterdam.


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