Despite a dramatic increase in public awareness and anti-bullying legislation nationwide, the prevalence of bullying is still one of the most pressing issues facing our nation's youth, according to a report by researchers from Clemson University and Professional Data Analysts Inc., and published by the Hazelden Foundation.
"Bullying continues to affect a great number of children in all age groups, with the highest prevalence observed in third and fourth grades, where roughly 22 percent of schoolchildren report that they are bullied two or three times or more per month," said Sue Limber, co-author of the report and professor in the Institute on Family and Neighborhood Life at Clemson.
Research shows that bullying affects individuals across ethnicity, gender, grade and socioeconomic status, whether they live in urban, suburban or rural communities. Bullying can have serious effects during the school years and into adulthood.
Using data collected from the Olweus Bullying Questionnaire, they analyzed a representative sample of more than 200,000 questionnaires administered to students at schools that intended to, but had not yet implemented, the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program, an internationally respected anti-bullying program.
The sample included 1,000 girls and 1,000 boys from each grade between third and 12th -- and the results were broken down by grade level and gender.
"We found that 18 percent of all students surveyed were involved in bullying others, were bullied by others or both, and that cyberbullying was one of the least common forms of bullying experienced," Limber said.
A substantial proportion of bullied students did not confide in anyone about being bullied, and boys were less likely to confide in others than girls. Although more than 90 percent of girls and 80 percent of boys said they felt sorry for students who are bullied, far fewer reached out to help them.
"Many students also lacked confidence in the administrative and teaching staff to address bullying and, by high school, less than one-third of bullied students had reported bullying to adults at school," she said. "Although half of students in grades three to five believed that school staff often tried to put a stop to it when a student was being bullied, this percentage dropped to just 36 percent by high school."
The researchers say that one of the best tools that schools have for decreasing the problems associated with bullying behavior is to implement evidence-based prevention programs.
"We hope that this report helps teachers, administrators, parents, policymakers and concerned citizens raise national awareness about bullying and improve school environments so every child can feel safe at school," said Limber.