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Resilience after adolescent victimisation

What factors make some people more resilient to bullying than others? The experience of adolescent peer victimisation is associated with an increased risk of poor physical and mental health [1] but only 15% of victims go on to experience clinical depression in adulthood. A paper published in July 2021 in JCPP Advances [2] co-authored by Jessica Armitage aims to find out why, while also taking a broader look at whether the factors that promote mental health also promote wellbeing.

The paper derived its data from a longitudinal cohort of 15,000 participants called ALPSAC and focused on those who were victimised by peers (bullied) at age 13 and following them up at age 23, analysing 14 factors to determine which ones contributed towards their future wellbeing and positive mental health.

The main protective factor for adult wellbeing was clearly identified as “self-perception of scholastic ability” during childhood. This may be because it allows people to believe in their ability to do well or more broadly because it increases self-esteem which allows them to handle negative events better. It may also be because individuals who have a higher “self-perception of scholastic ability” are more involved in the school activities. However, further research is needed to investigate these possible explanations. Other factors seemed to have a much more negligible effect. For example, friendships in late adolescence also had a protective effect, but only for those who experienced less intense victimisation.

It is an interesting fact that this protective factor seemed to be more effective when it was already in place before the bullying took place, which suggests that safeguarding people’s wellbeing is better achieved by intervening and supporting the development of scholastic self-esteem in early childhood than after the trauma has already occurred.

It should also be noted that even though perceived scholastic ability was associated with higher levels of wellbeing amongst victims of adolescent bullying, it was not associated with a lowered risk of depression. This could mean that the factors that protect from depression are completely different to those that protect from poor wellbeing (for example, genetics is believed to have a role in up to 40 percent of people [4]) or that there are other factors that affect those with perceived scholastic ability that have more significant negative effects on their mental health leading to higher levels of depression and anxiety (such as higher workloads and pressure to succeed).

In conclusion it is important for teachers, parents, and therapists to understand the protective factors that aid children’s resilience to trauma and to promote them. Furthermore, it is important to consider factors that promote wellbeing as well as mental health. This paper suggests that working to promote young children’s perception of scholastic ability in particular, is important for their future wellbeing.



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