Methods: This study used a cross-sectional survey design. The online survey recruited 1,037 college students across the nation. The survey employed a non-probability quota sampling to have a balanced ratio in gender (female and male) and geographic location (Seoul metropolitan area and elsewhere), close to 50:50 respectively. The dependent variable is depressive symptoms assessed by Brief Symptom Inventory (BSI) scale. Child maltreatment was measured with five variables, emotional abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional neglect, and physical neglect (yes=1; no=0). Childhood bullying was based on at least one incident including any of the following types of bullying: assault, physical intimidation, emotional victimization, and extortion by threats (yes=1; no=0). Also this study controlled for several variables such as age, gender, health status, income. We conducted three regression analyses to examine the associations between child maltreatment and bullying and depressive symptoms
Results: Approximately 35% of participants experienced childhood bullying. Also, approximately 16% of participants reported emotional abuse, and approximately 22% physical abuse, 15% of sexual abuse, 28% of emotional neglect, and 4% of physical neglect. Regression analyses controlling for covariates indicated that childhood bullying was significantly associated with depressive symptoms in young adulthood (b= .10, p< .001). Child maltreatment was also positively associated with depressive symptoms. Emotional abuse (b= .12, p< .000), sexual abuse (b= .10, p< .000), emotional neglect (b= .09, p< .003), and physical neglect (b= .10, p< .000) were significantly associated with depressive symptoms. However, physical abuse (b= .05, p> .05) was not associated with depressive symptoms.
Discussion and Implications: It is important to note that negative childhood experiences are related to mental health in young adulthood. This study provides important evidence that childhood bullying has independent association with depressive symptoms in young adulthood.
This study discusses policy and practice implications that should be addressed to prevent childhood bullying with other types of child maltreatment.