Although there is mounting evidence that the experience of being bullied associates with both internalizing and externalizing symptoms, it is not known yet whether the identified associations are specific to these symptoms, or shared between them. The primary focus of this study is to assess the prospective associations of bullying exposure with both general and specific (i.e., internalizing, externalizing) factors of psychopathology. This study included data from 6,210 children participating in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC). Child bullying was measured by self-report at ages 8 and 10 years. Child psychopathology symptoms were assessed by parent-interview, using the Development and Well-being Assessment (DAWBA) at ages 7 and 13 years. Bullying exposure significantly associated with the general psychopathology factor in early adolescence. In particular, chronically victimized youth exposed to multiple forms of bullying (i.e., both overt and relational) showed higher levels of general psychopathology. Bullying exposure also associated with both internalizing and externalizing factors from the correlated-factors model. However, the effect estimates for these factors decreased considerably in size and dropped to insignificant for the internalizing factor after extracting the shared variance that belongs to the general factor of psychopathology. Using an integrative longitudinal model, we found that higher levels of general psychopathology at age 7 also associated with bullying exposure at age 8 which, in turn, associated with general psychopathology at age 13 through its two-year continuity. Findings suggest that exposure to bullying is a risk factor for a more general vulnerability to psychopathology.

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Research on Child and Adolescent Psychopathology
Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Psychology

Rijlaarsdam, J., Cecil, C., Buil, M., van Lier, P., & Barker, E.D. (Edward D.). (2021). Exposure to Bullying and General Psychopathology: A Prospective, Longitudinal Study. Research on Child and Adolescent Psychopathology. doi:10.1007/s10802-020-00760-2