Long-term effects of bullying include a reduction in occupational opportunities, long-lasting feelings of bitterness and anger, difficulty trusting others and avoidance of new social situations and self-esteem problems during adulthood. One of the primary ways bullying affects a child's development is through creating a sense of helplessness and weakness.
A college student sample study conducted in 2004 suggests that bullying victims who perceived themselves as having some degree of control over the extent of the bullying they received endured less severe long-term effects than those who did not. Of particular importance to this study is the fact that the reality of whether the victims were capable of controlling the extent of their bullying was not significant; they needed only to believe that they could affect the outcome to enjoy increased self-esteem and assertiveness later in life.
Bullying causes damage to victims' sense of identity and self-esteem. Victims of bullying learn not to feel safe in the world and that they are incapable of protecting themselves from danger. This produces interpersonal difficulties throughout adolescence and adulthood that have shown to increase the tendencies of bullying victims to become loners. In many cases, this sense of helplessness can be countered by the presence of positive social support or through empowerment in other areas in life.