Bullying Behaviors Among US Youth
Prevalence and Association With Psychosocial Adjustment
Tonja R. Nansel, PhD Mary Overpeck, DrPH Ramani S. Pilla, PhD W. June Ruan, MA Bruce Simons-Morton, EdD, MPH Peter Scheidt, MD, MPH ULLYING AMONG SCHOOL-AGED youth is increasingly being recognized as an important problem affecting well-being and social functioning. While a certain amount of conflict and harassment is typical of youth peer relations, bullying presents a potentially more serious threat to healthy youth development. The definition of bullying is widely agreed on in literature on bullying.1-4 Bullying is a specific type of aggression in which (1) the behavior is intended to harm or disturb, (2) the behavior occurs repeatedly over time, and (3) there is an imbalance of power, with a more powerful person or group attacking a less powerful one. This asymmetry of power may be physical or psychological, and the aggressive behavior may be verbal (eg, name-calling, threats), physical (eg, hitting), or psychological (eg, rumors, shunning/exclusion). The majority of research on bullying has been conducted in Europe and Australia. Considerable variability among countries in the prevalence of bullying has been reported. In an international survey of adolescent healthrelated behaviors, the percentage of students who reported being bullied at least once during the current term ranged from a low of 15% to 20% in
Context Although violence among US youth is a current major concern, bullying is infrequently addressed and no national data on the prevalence of bullying are available. Objectives To measure the prevalence of bullying behaviors among US youth and to determine the association of bullying and being bullied with indicators of psychosocial adjustment, including problem behavior, school adjustment, social/emotional adjustment, and parenting. Design, Setting, and Participants Analysis of data from a representative sample of 15686 students in grades 6 through 10 in public and private schools throughout the United States who completed the World Health Organization’s Health Behaviour in School-aged Children survey during the spring of 1998. Main Outcome Measure Self-report of involvement in bullying and being bullied by others. Results A total of 29.9% of the sample reported moderate or frequent involvement in bullying, as a bully (13.0%), one who was bullied (10.6%), or both (6.3%). Males were more likely than females to be both perpetrators and targets of bullying. The frequency of bullying was higher among 6th- through 8th-grade students than among 9th- and 10th-grade students. Perpetrating and experiencing bullying were associated with poorer psychosocial adjustment (P .001); however, different patterns of association occurred among bullies, those bullied, and those who both bullied others and were bullied themselves. Conclusions The prevalence of bullying among US youth is substantial. Given the concurrent behavioral and emotional difficulties associated with bullying, as well as the potential long-term negative outcomes for these youth, the issue of bullying merits serious attention, both for future research and preventive intervention. JAMA. 2001;285:2094-2100 www.jama.com
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some countries to a high of 70% in others. 5,6 Of particular concern is frequent bullying, typically defined as bullying that occurs once a week or more. The prevalence of frequent bullying reported internationally ranges from a low of 1.9% among 1 Irish sample to a high of 19% in a Malta study.1,7-12 Bullying takes many forms, and findings about the types of bullying that occur are fairly similar across countries. A British study involving 23 schools found that direct verbal aggression was the most common form of bullying, occurring with similar frequency in both sexes.13 Direct physical aggression was more common among boys, while indirect forms were more common among