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CONSEQUENCES OF CHILDHOOD TEASING
PERSIST THROUGH ADULTHOOD

By Doug Tattershall

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Results of the study led by UK doctoral student John Georgesen indicated he individuals who are emotionally over-reactive were more likely to be teases.  The individuals also expressed anger about being teased and were less likely to forgive their teasers.

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Sept. 29, 1999 – (Lexington, Ky.) –  Being teased often as a child, and even teasing others, can have lifelong negative consequences, according to a University of Kentucky study to be published in the October issue of Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

The study led by UK doctoral student John Georgesen examined the relation between personality and teasing experiences among college students, suggesting that individuals with certain personality characteristics are at risk for being teased in childhood and for carrying those negative aspects into adulthood.

Results indicated the individuals who are emotionally over-reactive were more likely to be teased. These individuals also expressed more anger about being teased and were less likely to forgive their teasers. They were more likely to feel that angry, hostile responses are the best way to respond to teasing.

The relations between personality and teasing extended to the teaser as well as the victim. Individuals who were high in extraversion were more likely to tease others and feel less remorse for the teasing they did. In contrast, individuals high in agreeableness or conscientiousness were less likely to tease others and expressed more remorse for those times they did tease.

Teasing often has been ignored as a harmless part of childhood. However, with the recent spate of school shootings in which teasing has been implicated as a major cause, that attitude is now being questioned. The UK study has important implications for understanding the negative effects of teasing in childhood.

For example, the study suggests that emotionally over-reactive children not only are more likely to be teased, but they also are less able to deal with it effectively long-term. Their anger at being teased festers even into their adult lives.

UK researchers conducted the study by collecting personality information and teasing histories from more than 200 undergraduates. These participants also wrote stories about memorable childhood experiences of being teased and teasing others, and they responded to simulated teasing incidents on videotape. Personality affected responses to current instances of teasing as well as the past incidents of teasing described in their stories.

Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin is published at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, Iowa.


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