Bullying and Other Risk Factors for Suicidal Behavior

October 24, 2013

News Type:  Weekly Spark Research

The results of a study of middle-school students (ages 10-13) confirmed that “involvement in bullying in any capacity is linked to increased risk for suicidal ideations and behavior” – especially for children who both bully others and are victims of bullying. However, when the analysis controlled for delinquency and depression, most of this increased risk disappeared. The authors concluded that bullying on its own accounts for only a very small amount of the difference in suicide risk between children involved in bullying and children who are not involved in bullying. Rather, it is the combination of risk factors that is the most accurate indication of elevated risk.

The study compared children who were not involved in bullying with four groups of young people who were involved in bullying:

·         verbal bullies

·         physically aggressive bullies

·         victims of bullying

·         young people who both bullied others and were victims of bullies

The authors report that their research suggests that

·         it is important to assess students involved in bullying for depression and suicidal ideation, especially if the students are either victims of bullying or are physically aggressive bullies themselves, and

·         combinations of risk factors (e.g. bullying, delinquency, and depression) can have a particularly powerful effect upon the risk of suicidal behaviors. Thus, “suicide risk will be more accurately predicted when considering the entirety of risk and protective factors for a particular youth.”

Espelage, D., & Holt, M. (2013). Suicidal Ideation and School Bullying Experiences after Controlling for Depression and DelinquencyJournal of Adolescent Health 53(1) Suppl, S27-S31.

This is the last of four summaries of articles that appeared in a special supplement to the Journal of Adolescent Health on the issue of bullying and suicide, published in July 2013. The supplement can be downloaded at no cost from the ScienceDirect website.

Resource Note

SPRC’s Suicide and Bullying Issue Brief examines the relationship between suicide and bullying among children and adolescents, with special attention to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth. It also explores strategies for preventing these problems. This short publication can be downloaded at http://sprc.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/01/Suicide_Bullying_Issue_Brief-1.pdf.

For more information