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Childhood bullying and the association with psychosis in non-clinical and clinical samples: a review and meta-analysis

Research output: Contribution to journalLiterature reviewpeer-review

D. S. van Dam, E. van der Ven, E. Velthorst, J. P. Selten, Catherine Morgan, L. de Haan

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2463-2474
Number of pages12
JournalPsychological Medicine
Issue number12
Early online date9 Mar 2012
E-pub ahead of print9 Mar 2012
PublishedDec 2012

King's Authors


Background. Approximately 11% of schoolchildren are bullied on a regular basis. It has been argued that continuous exposure to stress is related to the development of psychotic symptoms. The current study sought to investigate whether being bullied in childhood is related to the development of psychotic symptoms.

Method. A search of PubMed, PsycINFO and EMBASE was conducted. The reference lists of included papers were searched to identify other eligible papers. A meta-analysis was performed on a subgroup of studies.

Results. We found four clinical and 10 general population studies that met inclusion criteria. The results of the clinical studies were mixed. However, the results of the non-clinical studies provided more consistent evidence that school bullying is related to the development of non-clinical psychotic symptoms. Stronger associations were found with increased frequency and severity and longer duration of being bullied. We performed a meta-analysis on seven population-based studies, yielding unadjusted and adjusted odds ratios (ORs) of 2.7 [95% confidence interval (CI) 2.1-3.6] and 2.3 (95% CI 1.5-3.4) respectively.

Conclusions. Although there is some evidence of an association between bullying and psychosis in clinical samples, the research is too sparse to draw any firm conclusions. However, population-based non-clinical studies support the role of bullying in the development of psychotic symptoms later in life. These findings are consistent with findings of an increased risk of psychotic symptoms among those exposed to other types of abuse.

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