Childhood Emotional and Physical Bullying in a Psychosis Sample

Marguerite Sears, BA

McLean Hospital
Childhood Emotional and Physical Bullying in a Psychosis Sample

Scientific Abstract


Background: Studies have suggested that increasing severity of bullying is associated with higher rates of both psychotic disorders and psychotic-like experiences. In this study, we examined differences in experiences of childhood bullying between patients with schizophrenia (SZ) or psychotic bipolar disorder (BP) versus healthy controls (HC) using a self-report survey.

Methods: We recruited 151 subjects (47 SZ, 53 BP, 51 HC) to complete Teicher and Parigger’s (2015) Maltreatment and Abuse Chronology of Exposure (MACE) questionnaire as part of an online REDCap survey study. The MACE is a 52-item scale that asks about 10 different types of abuse, including peer emotional and physical bullying, as well as the chronology of abuse. Men and women ages 18-89 who have already taken part in research in the McLean Hospital Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorder Program were invited to participate. We used chi-square tests to test for any group differences in the proportion of individuals reporting each form of bullying. In addition, we performed linear mixed effect analyses to assess for group differences in the timing of exposure to each type of bullying.

Results: We found a significant difference between groups in the proportion of individuals who reported emotional bullying (X2=18.455, p<0.0001) and physical bullying (X2=10.387, p=0.006). More SZ (63.0%) and BP (73.6%) patients, compared to HC (32.7%), reported emotional bullying. For physical bullying, only SZ patients (52.2%) were significantly different than HC (20.4%). When examining the chronology of abuse, exposure to emotional bullying was greatest at ages 12-13, and there was a diagnosis x timing interaction for both SZ (p=0.020) and BP (p<0.0001) patients, adjusting for age, sex, and education. For physical bullying, the linear mixed effects model, again adjusting for age, sex, and education, showed a diagnosis x timing interaction only for SZ (p=0.007), with exposure to physical bullying in SZ peaking at age 13.

Conclusions: Our findings suggest that childhood bullying is prevalent among individuals with SZ and BP. These results are consistent with effects reported by current literature on trauma and psychosis.

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research Areas


Marguerite Sears, BA, Lena Stone, BS, Mariesa Cay, BA, Dost Öngür, MD, PhD, Ann K. Shinn, MD, MPH

Principal Investigator

Ann K. Shinn, MD, MPH