Bullying is not only a serious problem, it is deceptively complex. As a result, it is not easy to understand bullying problems or to determine how to respond to them. It is important to address bullying because it is pervasive and accompanied by detrimental and often subtle effects that linger after the episodes end. The dynamics of bullying go beyond the children, youth, or adults who bully or are bullied. Individual features, family and peer interactions, and cultural considerations all contribute to bullying. Making the situation more complex are new forms of bullying such as cyberbullying, which has unique implications for prevention and intervention.
Common in the schoolyard and in the workplace for decades, bullying has been a predictable, “accepted,” usually undiscussed although painful, part of childhood, youth, and adulthood. It has been said that bullying is “the most prevalent form of low-level violence in schools today.” Until very recently, bullying has been tolerated in Western society, and school-based bullying was considered a “normal” part of childhood that had a possibly good outcome through “character-building.” Although some people still see it that way, possibly because of how pervasive bullying is in the school context, bullying has recently been recognized as a public health problem that needs to be addressed.
But it has taken acts of extreme violence in which bullying appeared to be a factor for this phenomenon really to become part of the public agenda. For example, after the April 1999 Columbine killings, it was learned that one of many factors that may have contributed to the killing spree by Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold was their chronic victimization by popular school athletes. Of course, this was a special case of extreme violence that doesn’t occur in the vast majority of schools. Still, Columbine was described by certain students, teachers, and parents as a place where bullying was tolerated.
Prevalence of Bullying
- In 2009, about 28 percent of 12- to 18-year-old students reported having been bullied at school during the school year and 6 percent reported having been cyberbullied.
- High school students are more likely to be cyberbullied than middle school students
- Of all students who reported being cyberbullied in 2009, about 3 percent reported being subjected to harassing text messages (4 percent of girls and 2 percent of boys).
- 20 percent of female and 13 percent of male students reported being the subject of adverse rumors in 2009
- 10 percent of male and 8 percent of female students reported being pushed, shoved, tripped or spit upon
- 6 percent of female and 4 percent of male students reported being deliberately excluded from activities
- 19 percent of students reported having been made fun of
- 16 percent were the subject of negative rumors
- 9 percent reported being pushed
- 6 percent reported being threatened
- 5 percent reported being excluded
- 4 percent reported being forced to do things they didn’t want to do
- 3 percent reported having their property destroyed
- Boys are 1.7 times as likely to bully as girls
- Boys are also 2.5 times as likely as girls to bully as well as be bullied
- Boys are typically bullied by boys, while girls are typically bullied by both boys and girls
- 20 percent of girls and 25 percent of boys reported that they had either bullied, been bullied, or both two to three times a month or more
Learn all about bullying in our homestudy course, The Psychology of Bullying. Check out all of our courses by clicking below.