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Original Contribution
April 25, 2001

Bullying Behaviors Among US Youth: Prevalence and Association With Psychosocial Adjustment

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, Bethesda, Md. Dr Overpeck is now with the Maternal and Child Health Bureau, Health Resources and Services Administration, Rockville, Md; Dr Pilla is now with the University of Illinois at Chicago.

JAMA. 2001;285(16):2094-2100. doi:10.1001/jama.285.16.2094

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 15 686 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<.001); 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.