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Bullying - How common is bullying?


  1. What is bullying?
  2. How common is bullying?
  3. Where does bullying occur?
  4. What influences bullying?

How Common Is Bullying?

In the United States:
Bullying may very well be the most prevalent form of school violence in the United States. While specific studies have revealed rates ranging from a low of 10 percent to a high of 75 percent of school-aged children who reported being bullied at least once during their school years, most studies indicate that approximately 15 percent to 20 percent of students will experiencing bullying at some point from kindergarten through high school graduation.

In a nationally representative survey of youth in grades 6 through 10, conducted in 1998 by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), 3.2 million students reported that they were victims of bullying and 3.7 million students reported that they bullied others. Students were considered moderate to frequent bullies if they participated in bullying "sometimes" to "several times a week." Of these students, 1.2 million reported that they were both victims of bullies as well as bullies themselves. So, at the time of the survey, 30 percent of young people across the nation were involved in moderate to frequent bullying, either as perpetrators, victims, or both. See the chart below, taken from the recent report Bullying Prevention Is Crime Prevention by Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, for a more detailed breakdown of students' involvement in bullying.


(click on image to enlarge)

In other countries:
While bullying was not high on the list of school safety priorities in the United States until well into the 1990s, it has been the focus of wide public concern in Scandinavia since the early 1980s. In 1982, three Norwegian boys ages 10 to 14 committed suicide as a result of severe, long-term bullying. In response to widespread demand for governmental action by school administrators and the general public, Norway launched the Campaign Against Bullying in 1983. Dan Olweus, an internationally renowned pioneer and expert in this field, selected a representative sample of 715 schools participating in this campaign, with 130,000 students ranging in age from 8 to 16 years, for the Norwegian National Survey. To be considered a bully, a child had to have bullied others one or more times per week. The data revealed that approximately 15 percent of the students were actively involved in bullying to some degree, while 5 percent were involved in more serious bully behaviors.

Investigators in England, Ireland, the Netherlands, Australia, Japan, and Canada - many of whom used slight modifications of Olweus's survey - have reported even higher rates of bullying. For example, Canadian data from the World Health Organization Health and Behaviour Survey of School-Aged Children revealed that approximately 54 percent of boys and 32 percent of girls in grades 6, 8, and 10 reported that they had bullied others in the last six weeks, while 34 percent and 27 percent respectively reported being victimized at least once in the last six weeks. Sidebar: Children with ADHD, ODD, and other behavioral disorders are particularly vulnerable to low self-esteem. They frequently experience school problems, have difficulty making friends, and lag behind their peers in psychosocial development. They are more likely than other children to bully and to be bullied. Parents of children with behavior problems experience highly elevated levels of child-rearing stress, and this may make it more difficult for them to respond to their children in positive, consistent, and supportive ways.

Source: Adapted from Exploring the Nature and Prevention of Bullying

Page last modified by Department of Education on January 25, 2010

Page last modified or reviewed by athealth on January 31, 2014

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