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Purpose The purpose of the study is to test whether bullying in adolescents relates to poor mental health and whether social support mitigated this effect. Methods In 2001, 28 schools in East London were randomly selected for surveys of two representative mixed ability classes: year 7 (11–12 years) and year 9 (13–14 years). Repeated measures were obtained from the same pupils 2 years later, using the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (total difficulties score [TDS]) as a measure of psychological distress. A simple one-level random intercepts model with measurements nested within pupils was used to investigate the effects of bullying and social support from friends and family on TDS. We also assessed whether culturally congruent friendships offered a mental health advantage. Results Bullying was associated with a higher mean TDS (coefficient, 95% confidence interval: White British: 2.15, 1.41–2.88; Bangladeshi: 1.65,.91–2.4); a high level of family social support was associated with a lower TDS (White British: −2.36, −3.33 to −1.39; Bangladeshi: −2.34, −3.15 to −.149). Social support from friends was helpful for White British adolescents (−1.06, −2.07 to −.04). Culturally congruent friendships offered no general advantage. Conclusion Bullying is associated with psychological distress; family social support is independently associated with less psychological distress.

Original publication




Journal article


Journal of Adolescent Health

Publication Date





317 - 328