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The Pediatric Forum
November 2003

Operationally Defining "Bullying"

Author Affiliations

Copyright 2003 American Medical Association. All Rights Reserved. Applicable FARS/DFARS Restrictions Apply to Government Use.2003

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2003;157(11):1134-1135. doi:10.1001/archpedi.157.11.1134-a

We commend Nansel and colleagues1 for exploring the effect of bullying on youth. However, we contend that "bullying" is a very specific type of peer aggression that is not captured in the authors' definition of bullying provided to surveyed youth. Their description of bullying is attributed to Olweus,2 yet it does not sufficiently assess onffe of the fundamental components of his definition. Olweus emphasizes that acts of bullying are typically "carried out repeatedly and over time."2(p6) Although the definition provided by Nansel et al mentions that it can be considered bullying when a student is teased repeatedly, their definition does not describe bullying as a relationship with a reoccurring pattern of interactions. The concept that bullying is a relationship is one of the central characteristics that distinguish it from other types of peer aggression. By including in their definition that bullying can occur when students "say or do nasty or unpleasant things," Nansel et al are asking for youth reports of a wider range of behaviors and aggressive acts. While we recognize the importance of assessing the prevalence and effect of all types of peer aggression, there is value in a succinct and coherent definition of "bullying."