October is National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month

This month serves as a reminder that bullying prevention must be addressed, and one way to accomplish this is through educating ourselves, our communities and the youth in our lives. October is a great time to help raise awareness for this important issue.


What We Know About Bullying

What is bullying?

Bullying is aggressive and intentional behavior involving an imbalance of power or strength. Typically, it is repeated over time and the child who is being bullied has a hard time defending themselves.

Bullying can take many forms, such as hitting or punching (physical bullying), teasing or name calling (verbal bullying), intimidation using gestures or social exclusion (nonverbal or emotional bullying), or sending insulting messages by email (cyberbullying).

Prevalence of bullying:

  • Studies show between 15-25 percent of U.S. students are bullied with some frequency, while 15-20 percent report they bully others with some frequency (Melton et al., 1998; Nansel et al., 2001).
  • Recent statistics show although school violence has declined 4 percent during the past several years, the incidence of behaviors such as bullying has increased by 5 percent between 1999 and 2001 (U.S. Dept of Ed. 2002).
  • Bullying has been identified as a major concern by schools across the U.S (NEA3, 2003).
  • In surveys of third through eighth graders in 14 Massachusetts schools, nearly half who had been frequently bullied reported that the bullying had lasted six months or longer (Mullin-Rindler, 2003).
  • Research indicates that children with disabilities or special needs may be at a higher risk of being bullied than other children (see Rigby, 2002, for review).

Bullying and gender:

  • By self-report, boys are more likely than girls to bully others (Nansel et al., 2001; Banks 1997).
  • Girls frequently report being bullied by both boys and girls, but boys report that they are most often bullied only by other boys (Melton et al., 1998; Olweus, 1993).
  • Verbal bullying is the most frequent form of bullying experienced by both boys and girls.
  • Boys are more likely to be physically bullied by their peers (Olweus, 1993; Nansel et al., 2001);
  • Girls are more likely to report being targets of rumor-spreading and sexual comments (Nansel et al., 2001).
  • Girls are more likely to bully each other using social exclusion (Olweus, 2002).
  • Use of derogatory speculation about sexual orientation is so common that many parents do not think of telling their children that it could be hurtful (NEA2, 2003).

Consequences of bullying:

  • Stresses of being bullied can interfere with student’s engagement and learning in school (NEA Today, 1999).
  • Children and youth who are bullied are more likely than other children to be depressed, lonely, anxious, have low self-esteem, feel unwell, and think about suicide (Limber, 2002; Olweus, 1993).
  • Students who are bullied may fear going to school, using the bathroom, and riding on the school bus (NEA1, 2003).
  • In a survey of third through eighth graders in 14 Massachusetts schools, more than 14 percent reported that they were often afraid of being bullied (Mullin-Rindler, 2003).
  • Research shows that bullying can be a sign of other serious antisocial or violent behavior. Children and youth who frequently bully their peers are more likely than others to get into frequent fights, be injured in a fight, vandalize or steal property, drink alcohol, smoke, be truant from school, drop out of school, and carry a weapon (Nansel et al., 2003; Olweus, 1993).
  • Bullying also has an impact on other students at school who are bystanders to bullying (Banks, 1997). Bullying creates a climate of fear and disrespect in schools and has a negative impact on student learning (NEA1, 2003).

Adult response to bullying:

  • Adults are often unaware of bullying problems (Limber, 2002). In one study, 70 percent of teachers believed that teachers intervene “almost always” in bullying situations; only 25 percent of students agreed with this assessment (Charach et al., 1995).
  • 25 percent of teachers see nothing wrong with bullying or putdowns and consequently intervene in only 4 percent of bullying incidents (Cohn & Canter, 2002).
  • Students often feel that adult intervention is infrequent and unhelpful and they often fear that telling adults will only bring more harassment from bullies (Banks, 1997).
  • In a survey of students in 14 elementary and middle schools in Massachusetts, more than 30 percent believed that adults did little or nothing to help in bullying incidents (Mullin-Rindler, 2003).


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Banks, R. (1997). Bullying in schools (ERIC Report No. EDO-PS-97-170.) University of Illinois Champaign, Ill. Limber, S. P. (2002). Addressing youth bullying behaviors. Proceedings from the American Medical Association Educational Forum on Adolescent Health: Youth Bullying. Chicago, IL: American Medical Association. Retrieved August 12, 2005, from www.ama-assn.org/ama1/pub/upload/mm/39/ youthbullying.pdf.

Melton, G. B.. Limber, S. Flerx, V. Cunningham, P., Osgood, D.W., Chambers, J., Henggler, S., & Nation, M. (1998). Violence among rural youth. Final report to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

Mullin-Rindler, N. (2003). Findings from the Massachusetts Bullying Prevention Initiative. Unpublished manuscript.Nansel, T. R., Overpeck, M. D., Haynie, D. L., Ruan, W. J., & Scheidt, P. C. (2003). Relationships between bullying and violence among US youth. Archives of Pediatric Adolescent Medicine, 157, 348-353.

Nansel, T. Overpeck, M., Pilla, R.S., Ruan, W.J., Simmons-Morton, B. Schmidt, P. (2001). Bullying behaviors among US youth. Journal of American Medical Association, 285, 2094-2100. National Education Association. (1995). Youth risk behavior survey data results. Retrieved August 12, 2005, from www.nea.orgs.

National Education Association1. (2003). National bullying awareness campaign. Retrieved August 12, 2005, from www.neaorg/schoolsafety/bullying.html.

National Education Association2. (2003). Parents role in bullying prevention and intervention. Retrieved August 12, 2005, from www.nea.org/schoolsafety/bullyingparentsrole.html.

National Education Association3. (2003). School safety facts. Retrieved August 12, 2005, from www.nea.org/ schoolsafety/ssfacts.html.

National Education Association4. (2003). Youth violence intervention and prevention. Retrieved August 12, 2005, from www.nasponline.org/advocacy/youth_violence.html.

NEA Today. (1999). Easing the strain of students’ stress. Departments: Health. September 1999. NEA Washington, DC Retrieved August 12, 2005, from www.nea.org/neatoday/9909/health.html.

Olweus, D. (1993). Bullying at school: What we know and what we can do. Cambridge, MA: Blackwell Publishers, Inc.

Olweus, D. (February 23, 2002). Personal communication.

Rigby, K. (2002). New perspectives on bullying. London: Jessica Kinglsey Publications.

U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, The continuation of education 2002, NCES 2002-025, Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2002

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