Bullying Rates in Schools Drop Among American Teens

Jim Liebelt | Senior Writer, Editor and Researcher for the HomeWord Center for Youth and Family at Azusa Pacific University | Thursday, May 1, 2014

Bullying Rates in Schools Drop Among American Teens

American teens are much less likely to engage in bullying than they were a decade ago, new research suggests.

Surveys completed by middle school and high school students between 1998 and 2010 suggest that instances of both verbal and physical bullying dropped by roughly half, with much of the decline seen specifically among boys.

Study author Jessamyn Perlus, a fellow in the division of intramural population health research with the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, described her team's findings as "encouraging."

"In recent years, there has been more attention to anti-bullying efforts, such as prevention programs, and responses to bullying have been incorporated into school policies," Perlus noted. "We hope that these prevention efforts, and the additional attention and awareness of the problem of bullying, may be the reason for the decline."

Perlus and her colleagues reported their results in the April 17 online edition of the American Journal of Public Health.

During the study period, four surveys were conducted among a nationally representative sample of students attending grades 6 through 10. Each survey included roughly 9,000 to 16,000 teens.

Those polled were asked to indicate how much they had engaged in bullying in school during the prior two months. Bullying was defined as involving two or more people of unequal strength or power, and included verbal teasing and insulting; excluding or ignoring peers; physical abuse; the spreading of false and negative rumors; and/or making sexual jokes.

Off-campus bullying -- including cyber-bullying -- was not covered by the survey.

Researchers found fewer students said that they had been a victim of bullying over the course of the study period with rates dropping from nearly 14 percent to just over 10 percent. That decrease was seen primarily among boys.

An even more dramatic drop was seen among those students who said they had instigated an act of bullying. That figure fell from nearly 17 percent in 1998 to below 8 percent by 2010.

Younger students (in grades 6 through 8) also saw bigger declines than older students (in grades 9 and 10), the findings showed.

Source: U.S. News & World Report