Childhood bullying and the association with psychosis in non-clinical and clinical samples: A review and meta-analysis

D. S. Van Dam, E. Van Der Ven, E. Velthorst, J. P. Selten, C. Morgan, L. De Haan

Research output: Contribution to JournalReview articleAcademicpeer-review

122 Citations (Scopus)


Background Approximately 11% of schoolchildren are bullied on a regular basis. It has been argued that continuous exposure to stress is related to the development of psychotic symptoms. The current study sought to investigate whether being bullied in childhood is related to the development of psychotic symptoms. Method A search of PubMed, PsycINFO and EMBASE was conducted. The reference lists of included papers were searched to identify other eligible papers. A meta-analysis was performed on a subgroup of studies. Results We found four clinical and 10 general population studies that met inclusion criteria. The results of the clinical studies were mixed. However, the results of the non-clinical studies provided more consistent evidence that school bullying is related to the development of non-clinical psychotic symptoms. Stronger associations were found with increased frequency and severity and longer duration of being bullied. We performed a meta-analysis on seven population-based studies, yielding unadjusted and adjusted odds ratios (ORs) of 2.7 [95% confidence interval (CI) 2.1-3.6] and 2.3 (95% CI 1.5-3.4) respectively. Conclusions Although there is some evidence of an association between bullying and psychosis in clinical samples, the research is too sparse to draw any firm conclusions. However, population-based non-clinical studies support the role of bullying in the development of psychotic symptoms later in life. These findings are consistent with findings of an increased risk of psychotic symptoms among those exposed to other types of abuse.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2463-2476
Number of pages14
JournalPsychological Medicine
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2012


  • Adolescents
  • bullying victimization
  • children
  • epidemiology
  • psychosis

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