Being bullied during childhood and the prospective pathways to self-harm in late adolescence

Suzet Tanya Lereya, Catherine Winsper, Jon Heron, Glyn Lewis, David Gunnell, Helen L Fisher, Dieter Wolke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

108 Citations (Scopus)


OBJECTIVE: To assess whether being bullied between 7 and 10 years of age is directly associated with self-harm in late adolescence when controlling for previous exposure to an adverse family environment (domestic violence, maladaptive parenting); concurrent internalizing and externalizing behavior; and subsequent psychopathology (borderline personality disorder and depression symptoms).

METHOD: A total of 4,810 children and adolescents in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) cohort were assessed to ascertain bullying exposure (between 7 and 10 years of age) and self-harm at 16 to 17 years.

RESULTS: A total of 16.5% of 16- to 17-year-olds reported self-harm in the previous year. Being bullied was associated with an increased risk of self-harm directly, and indirectly via depression symptoms in early adolescence. The association between an adverse family environment (exposure to maladaptive parenting and domestic violence) and self-harm was partially mediated by being bullied.

CONCLUSIONS: Being bullied during childhood increases the risk of self-harm in late adolescence via several distinct pathways, for example, by increasing the risk of depression and by exacerbating the effects of exposure to an adverse family environment; as well as in the absence of these risk exposures. Health practitioners evaluating self-harm should be aware that being bullied is an important potential risk factor.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)608-18.e2
JournalJournal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2013

Bibliographical note

Copyright © 2013 American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Structured keywords

  • SASH


  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior
  • Bullying
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Neural Pathways
  • Risk Factors
  • Self-Injurious Behavior


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