Childhood stress and bullying victimization

Back to feature: Tackling Bullying

Dr. Isabelle Ouellet-Morin, CIHR-funded researcher
Assistant Professor in Criminology at the University of Montreal

Dr. Ouellet-Morin and her colleagues shed light on the harmful effects of early-life stress such as bullying victimization and their consequences on children’s reactivity to stress. Children who had been bullied or maltreated by an adult responded with lower levels of a stress hormone named cortisol than non-victim children, who exhibited the expected increase to social stressful situations. Lower cortisol responses were, in turn, associated with more social and behavioral problems among maltreated/bullied. Participants were 190 12-year-old children (50.5% males) recruited from the Environmental Risk Longitudinal Twin Study, a nationally representative 1994 to 1995 cohort of British families with twins.

Dr. Ouellet-Morin’s research illustrates that bullying victimization has long-lasting consequences on people’s lives and health. Her findings underline the need to integrate stress biomarkers like cortisol in guiding interventions aiming to prevent the emergence of physical and mental health problems in young victims.

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