Older generations grew up with the phrase, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Although we now know that false, a new scientific study sheds light on just how much damage words can do to a child. And it’s not only the bullied who suffer, but the bullies as well.
Research published in the journal Psychological Science shows undeniable relationships between bullying behavior and socioeconomic troubles such as poverty, crime and health problems, among others. The study, called, “Impact of Bullying in Childhood on Adult Health, Wealth, Crime and Social Outcomes,” interviewed over 1,000 children multiple times between the ages of 9 and 16. The study then came interviewed these subjects again between the ages of 24 and 26.
The collected data showed, both for bullies and bullied, that bullying early in life leads to hardship later on. The most striking correlation, though, lie in the connection between bullying and poverty. Victims of bullying in the initial interviews were 11 times more likely to suffer negative financial consequences when revisited in their 20s.
For children who reported being both the bully and the victim, this percentage of poverty jumped to an astounding 31.6 percent. Even years removed from the negative behaviors, bullied children end 11 percent more likely to be living in poverty. The bullied also reported being fired from employment 13 percent more than the general population.
In concert with similar findings from other studies, the authors do not mince their words: “Being bullied is not a harmless rite of passage or an inevitable part of growing up but throws a long shadow over affected children’s lives” It turns out words can have just as much power as sticks or stones.