Study: Students feel safer in school as bullying rates drop
Bullying is on the decline, but more work remains to continue the trend, according
to a new longitudinal study.
“Although promising, it is important to emphasize that a large proportion of youth
are still experiencing bullying and the current prevalence rates continue to be of
great concern,” authors said in the study “Ten-Year Trends in Bullying and Related
Attitudes Among 4th- to 12th-Graders” (Waasdorp TE, et al. Pediatrics. May 1, 2017, https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2016-2615).
With increased attention to bullying in recent years, the authors set out to quantify
the problem. Previous studies on bullying focused on older students over shorter time
periods and used fewer indicators of bullying, authors wrote. In this study, they
surveyed 246,306 Maryland students in grades four through 12 from 2005-’14.
The team used World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
definitions for bullying. They asked students about 13 indicators around different
types of bullying and attitudes as well as their school’s climate. They found high
schools showed the most improvement, while bullying peaked in middle school.
Looking collectively at all ages, researchers saw statistically significant improvement
in 10 of the indicators. In 2014, 13.4% of students reported being bullied in the
past month down from a peak of 28.8% in 2007. Roughly 7.1% of students in 2014 reported
bullying other children, down from 21.3% in 2005. Both metrics went down nearly every
year and were at or near their lowest in 2014.
About 42.7% of students said they witnessed bullying in 2014, down from a high of
66.4% in 2005. Roughly 88.5% of students in 2014 said they felt safe in school, up
from a low of 76.4% in 2006.
Cyberbullying, which has received much of the attention in recent years thanks to
new apps and social networks, fell to 3.6% in 2014 compared to a high of 7.8% in 2010.
However, the authors said this area should be studied in greater detail as technology
When students were asked about whether adults do enough to stop bullying, there were
significant improvements in the unadjusted but not adjusted models. Still, increased
attention to bullying intervention in schools in recent years may have contributed
to the bullying declines, authors said. They called for more study in this area as
In a related commentary https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2017-0504, the authors noted the study’s “commendable rigor” and called on pediatricians to
be vigilant for signs a patient is being bullied. They also recommended talking to
families about establishing support networks and ongoing communication at school,
home and among friends.
“While the notable improvements over the past 10 years in rates of bullying should
provide us with encouragement, we need to sustain our focus to continue the decrease
of bullying and victimization in schools across the nation,” they wrote.