National Bullying Prevention Month
Each year, as children return to school in the fall, it’s important to talk to them about bullying.
Bullying is a form of youth violence. Although definitions of bullying vary, most agree that bullying includes:
- Attack or intimidation with the intention to cause fear, distress, or harm that is either physical (hitting, punching), verbal (name calling, teasing), or psychological (rumors, social exclusion);
- A real or perceived imbalance of power between the bully and the victim; and
- Repeated attacks or intimidation between the same children over time.
Bullying can occur in person or through technology. Electronic bullying occurs through e-mail, a chat room, instant messaging, a website, text messaging, or videos or pictures posted on websites or sent through cell phones.
A young person can be a bully, a victim, or both (“bullyvictim”).
Why is bullying a public health problem?
Bullying is widespread in the United States.
- In a 2009 nationwide survey, about 20% of high school students reported being bullied on school property in the preceding 12 months.
- During the 2007-2008 school year, 25% of public schools reported that bullying occurred among students on a daily or weekly basis. A higher percentage of middle schools reported daily or weekly occurrences of bullying compared to primary and high schools.
- In 2007, about 4% of 12- to 18-year-old students reported having been bullied electronically during the school year.
Center for Injury Prevention and Control Division of Violence Prevention
How does bullying affect health?
Bullying can result in social and emotional distress, physical injury and even death. Victimized youth are at increased risk for mental health problems such as depression, anxiety and suicide, psychosomatic complaints such as headaches, and poor school adjustment. Youth who bully others are at increased risk for substance use, academic problems, and violence later in adolescence and adulthood. Compared to youth who only bully, or who are only victims, bully-victims suffer the most serious consequences and are at greater risk for both mental health and behavior problems.
Who is at risk for bullying?
A number of factors can increase the risk of a youth engaging in or experiencing bullying.
However, the presence of these factors does not always mean that a young person will become a bully or a victim.
Some of the factors associated with a higher likelihood of engaging in bullying behavior include:
- Impulsivity (poor self-control)
- Harsh parenting
- Attitudes accepting of violence
Some of the factors associated with a higher likelihood of victimization include:
- Friendship difficulties
- Poor self-esteem
- Quiet, passive manner with lack of assertiveness
How can we prevent bullying?
The ultimate goal is to stop bullying before it starts. Research on preventing and reducing bullying is still developing. School-based bullying prevention programs are widely implemented but infrequently evaluated. Based on a review of the limited research on school-based bullying prevention, the following program elements are promising:
- Improving supervision of students
- Using school rules and behavior management techniques in the classroom and throughout the school to detect and address bullying, with adverse consequences for bullying
- Having a whole-school anti-bullying policy and enforcing that policy consistently
- Promoting cooperation among various professionals and between school staff and parents
Where can I learn more?
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention
Stop Bullying: www.stopbullying.gov
Surgeon General’s Report on Youth Violence: www.surgeongeneral.gov/library/youth