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Exposure to Bullying and General Psychopathology: A Prospective, Longitudinal Study

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Edward Barker, Jolien Rijlaarsdam, Charlotte Cecil, marieke Buil, Pol A. C. van Lier

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

Bibliographical note

Funding Information: We are extremely grateful to all the families who took part in this study, the midwives for their help in recruiting them, and the whole ALSPAC team, which includes interviewers, computer and laboratory technicians, clerical workers, research scientists, volunteers, managers, receptionists and nurses. The UK Medical Research Council and the Wellcome Trust (Grant ref: 102215/2/13/2) and the University of Bristol provide core support for ALSPAC. A comprehensive list of grants funding is available on the ALSPAC website ( ). This publication is the work of the authors who will serve as guarantors for the contents of this article. 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). Copyright: Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.

King's Authors


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.

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