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Study Says Bullying Can Hurt a Lifetime, L.A. Latinos Ask, "You Needed a Study for That?"

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First Posted: Apr 18, 2014 03:01 PM EDT
Bullying can adversely affect its victims entire lifetimes, a new study says.
(Photo : Wikimedia Commons)

New research from King's College London says children who are bullied can suffer adverse related effects throughout their lives -- and Gary Molina, a teaching assistant from Rosemead, Calif., a Los Angeles suburb, wonders why the study is generating so much national attention.

"Why is it such a big deal now? I mean, by now everybody can see that, right. Bullying can really mess you up inside for a long time. No kidding, we all know that," said Molina, 26, who admits explains he was bullied -- physically beaten -- by grade school classmates on a daily basis because he was "lousy" at sports.

"I'm OK now, and have since found something I'm really good at," he said, "but for a long time, I felt like a failure -- because of how the other kids treated me."

Don Montana, 48, the owner of a delivery service that caters to grocery stores in L.A.'s Latino community, says he was bullied so hard physically and emotionally for so many years when he was young, he has never and will never attend a reunion of those who attended elementary school with him.

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"I always say I'm going to go to one of those things, and I get updates about the events on Facebook all the time, but then I see a lot of the things they post online, how the guys interact with one-another. And I see how they are in large part the same individuals with the same lack of respect or genuine sensitivity," Montana said.

"One of the other class dorks -- you know, the one kid that I was able to successfully beat up sometimes -- was able to reconcile all the bullying, and has been one the key organizers of the reunions, which is great for him," he said. "But I have a life, a great family, a good business beyond all of that. There's nothing there important enough for me to remember, certainly nothing to cherish, so screw it."

Findings of the bullying study, published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, were based on a study that tracked 7,771 children born in 1958 from the age of 7 until 50.

It was discovered those who were bullied frequently as children had an increased risk of experiencing depression and anxiety at some point and were more likely to report a lower quality of life at 50.

The study noted that even though the risk of poor health and negative social and economic consequences was relatively small 40 years after being bullied -- at 1.5 times the norm -- the rate was similar was similar to that faced by children in state care.

Ana Olivas-Wilson, an administrative assistant for a fashion export business in Pasadena, says she was "big for my age and hung around with the other tough girls in school, high school. And I admit I did my share of bullying."

But, she said, "isn't that a part of life, survival of the fittest? What happens to all these wussy little boy and girls who don't learn to stand up to others, who don't learn to assert themselves? Duh."

Said Olivas-Wilson: "Maybe bullying isn't fair, but it's real life."

Researchers in the Kings College study asked parents if their children had been exposed to bullying, at ages 7 and 11. More than a quarter said the children had indeed been bullied occasionally and, per 15 percent of them, bullied frequently.

Through the term of the study, researchers then carried out tests to see if the known effects of bullying persisted into adulthood: individuals were tested on their general health, as well as for psychological distress, at ages 23 and 50 -- and for psychiatric problems at age 45 and, finally, cognitive functioning, social relationships and well-being at 50.

The study showed those who were bullied in childhood were more likely to have poorer physical and mental health and cognitive functioning at 50.

"We need to move away from any perception that bullying is just an inevitable part of growing up," said Prof Louise Arseneault, senior study author, from the Institute of Psychiatry at King's College London. "Teachers, parents and policy-makers should be aware that what happens in the school playground can have long-term repercussions for children."

To that, Molina, the teaching assistant from Rosemead said: "Amen."

Christina Bravo, 35, a mother of three from Eagle Rock, wonders how today's youth will grow, if someone is always protecting them in school.

"Making an effort to stop bullying in school sounds all happy and wonderful, and I can tell you it would have been easier for me," noted Bravo, who says she was "picked-on a lot" for her fashion choices in high school. 

"I just wonder how all the intervention will play out. Life is hard, and, even if it hurts, bullying in a way prepares you for the tough experiences everyone expects you to jump into, straight out of school," she said.

"As they say, it's a 'dog-eat-dog' world out there."

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