Over the past decade, concerns about bullying and its role in school violence, depression, and health concerns have grown. However, no large studies in the United States have examined the prevalence of bullying during elementary school or its association with objective measures of school attendance and achievement.
To determine the prevalence of bullying during elementary school and its association with school attendance, academic achievement, disciplinary actions, and self-reported feelings of sadness, safety, and belonging.
Cross-sectional study using 2001-2002 school data.
Urban, West Coast public school district.
Three thousand five hundred thirty (91.4%) third, fourth, and fifth grade students.
Main Outcome Measure
Self-reported involvement in bullying.
Twenty-two percent of children surveyed were involved in bullying either as a victim, bully, or both. Victims and bully-victims were more likely to have low achievement than bystanders (odds ratios [ORs], 0.8 [95% confidence interval (CI), 0.7-0.9] and 0.8 [95% CI, 0.6-1.0], respectively). All 3 bullying-involved groups were significantly more likely than bystanders to feel unsafe at school (victims, OR, 2.1 [95% CI, 1.1-4.2]; bullies, OR, 2.5 [95% CI, 1.5-4.1]; bully-victims, OR, 5.0 [95% CI, 1.9-13.6]). Victims and bully-victims were more likely to report feeling that they don’t belong at school (ORs, 4.1 [95% CI, 2.6-6.5] and 3.1 [95% CI, 1.3-7.2], respectively). Bullies and victims were more likely than bystanders to feel sad most days (ORs 1.5 [95% CI, 1.2-1.9] and 1.8 [95% CI, 1.2-2.8], respectively). Bullies and bully-victims were more likely to be male (ORs, 1.5 [95% CI, 1.2-1.9] and 3.0 [95% CI, 1.3-7.0], respectively).
The prevalence of frequent bullying among elementary school children is substantial. Associations between bullying involvement and school problems indicate this is a serious issue for elementary schools. The research presented herein demonstrates the need for evidence-based antibullying curricula in the elementary grades.