Published: April 1, 2019

Download: Life Course Centre Working Paper: 2019-05


Emma Gorman, Colm Harmon, Silvia Mendolia, Anita Staneva, and Ian Walker.

Non-Technical Summary:

Bullying is widespread in schools, and is an important policy issue because of concern that being bullied may lead to long-lasting problems: low self-esteem, mental health conditions and poorer job prospects. Many studies document a negative correlation between bullying and later outcomes. However, there is little evidence available on whether being bullied causes poorer outcomes, and if so, how bad the impacts are. Similarly, there is little evidence about the effects of different types and frequencies of bullying. This study fills this gap by providing new evidence on the consequences of being bullied in high schools in England.

The researchers used confidential data on over 7,000 school pupils from the Longitudinal Study of Young People in England, aged between 14 and 16 years. The data contained information on how frequently the children were bullied, and what type of bullying they experienced. Examples include being called names, being excluded from social groups, being threatened with violence, experiencing violence, and having their possessions taken off them. This information was reported by both the child and parent, so the researchers could gain a detailed picture of the patterns of bullying. To specifically isolate the effects of being bullied on later outcomes, rather than other factors, the researchers compared the outcomes from young people who had the same background characteristics, including performance in test scores in primary school, social background, demographics, and parental attributes.

The key findings of this study show that bullying is common in schools, with about 50% of pupils reporting experiencing any type of bullying between ages 14 and 16 years. Further, experiencing bullying of any kind has negative consequences for academic achievement in schools, with findings suggesting that being bullied reduced the probability of success in age 16 high stakes exam by about 10% and reduced the probability of staying in education past 16 years old by 10%. Importantly, these negative effects are persistent, having negative impact on outcomes measured at age 25 years. Indeed, being bullied in school increased the probability of being unemployed at age 25 years by about 30%; reduced income by about 2%; and had a large negative impact on mental health.  The researchers also found suggestive evidence showing that, while all types of bullying have negative consequences, persistent bullying and violent bullying had greater negative impacts than less frequent or non-violent bullying.

Overall, these findings suggest that being bullied in school has negative impact on important academic and long-term outcomes, especially unemployment, income and mental ill-health. These effects are more pronounced among the pupils experiencing persistent bullying, or violent types of bullying. The findings suggest that a targeted approach to reduce more extreme forms of bullying may be warranted.


April 1, 2019