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 . 01); 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.
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.
Direct physical aggression was more common among boys, while indirect forms were more common among girls. Similarly, in a study of several middle schools in Rome, the most common types of bullying reported by boys were threats, physical harm, rejection, and name-calling. 14 The most common forms for girls were name-calling, teasing, rumors, rejection, and taking of personal belongings. Author Affiliations: National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, Bethesda, Md.
Research examining characteristics of youth involved in bullying has consistently found that both bullies and those bullied demonstrate poorer psychosocial functioning than their noninvolved peers. Youth who bully others tend to demonstrate higher levels of conduct problems and dislike of school, whereas youth who are bullied generally show higher levels of insecurity, anxiety, depression, loneliness, unhappiness, physical and mental symptoms, and low self-esteem. -4,8,15-25 Males who are bullied also tend to be physically weaker than males in general.
The few studies that have examined the characteristics of youth who both bully and are bullied found that these individuals exhibit the poorest psychosocial functioning overall. 15,17,19,26 The current research provides a foundation for an understanding of the bullying problem. However, it is insufficient to guide intervention and policy development. Moreover, little is known specifically about bullying among US youth. 6 In one county-wide middle school survey, 24. % of youth reported bullying others at least once in the past semester26; it is not known whether this is characteristic of the rest of the nation.
The purpose of this study was to report the prevalence of bullying in a nationally representative sample of US youth in grades 6 through 10, along with information on differences in the prevalence of bullying by sex, grade, and race. In addition, the relationships among bullying, being bullied, and psychosocial adjustment are explored for 3 distinct groups: bullies only, those bullied only, and those who both bully and are bullied.