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Bullied folks go to prison more, study finds

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There’s been much concern about bullying, and now comes another reason to make sure it doesn’t happen: People who were bullied throughout childhood and adolescence were significantly more likely to end up in prison than people who were not, a study released Thursday shows.

Almost 14 percent of people who reported being bullied repeatedly when they were children through their teen years went to prison as adults. That compared with 6 percent of people who were not bullied. Among people who were victims of bullying in childhood only, 9 percent went to prison, and among those who were bullied only as teens, the figure was 7 percent.

The study by Michael Turner from the criminal justice and criminology department at the University of North Caro­lina in Charlotte is the first to look at bullying throughout childhood and adolescence and the legal consequences.

He presented his work in Hono­lulu at the annual convention of the American Psychological Association.

The research showed that women who were chronically bullied till adulthood faced a greater chance than men of using drugs or alcohol and of being convicted of a crime.

Repeated bullying during young life was associated with substance abuse and delinquency, and there were few differences across race categories, Turner wrote.

The data came from the 1997 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, which included 7,335 people who were ages 12 to 16 in 1996. They were followed for 14 years. People were put into four groups: never bullied, bullied as children, bullied as teens and chronically bullied throughout.

“This study highlights the important role that health care professionals can play early in a child’s life when bullying is not adequately addressed by teachers, parents or guardians,” Turner said in a statement.

Bullying is defined as the persistent harassment — physical, verbal, emotional or psychological — of one person by another, causing a power imbalance. About 30 percent of young people in the U.S. have been affected by it, Turner wrote.

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