General Bullying Facts

Bullying directly affects students’ ability to learn.

  • According to the Center for Disease Control, students who are bullied are more likely to experience low self-esteem and isolation, perform poorly in school, have few friends in school, have a negative view of school, experience physical symptoms (such as headaches, stomachaches, or problems sleeping), and to experience mental health issues (such as depression, suicidal thoughts, and anxiety) (Center for Disease Control, Bullying Surveillance Among Youths, 2014).
  • Bullying affects witnesses as well as targets. Witnesses are more likely to use tobacco, alcohol, or other drugs; have increased mental health problems; and miss or skip school (
  • Youth who bully others are at increased risk for substance use, academic problems, and experiencing violence later in adolescence and adulthood. Youth who bully others and are bullied themselves suffer the most serious consequences and are at greater risk for mental health and behavioral problems. (Center for Disease Control, 2017).

Bystanders can be powerful allies.

  • Students have a unique power to prevent bullying. More than half of bullying situations (57 percent) stop when a peer intervenes on behalf of the student being bullied  (Hawkins, Pepler, & Craig, 2001) .
  • Unfortunately, peer bystanders intervene in bullying less than 20% of the time (Hawkins, Pepler, & Craig, 2001).
  • Student bystanders are often aware of situations before adults in the school (Hawkins, Pepler, & Craig, 2001 ); it is therefore important that all students feel empowered to intervene safely in bullying situations. A school can facilitate this behavior by cultivating a climate of respect and tolerance within the school. Students should be encouraged to stand up for one another and such behavior should be recognized and rewarded.
  • Since student bystanders can often intervene most effectively, it’s important for schools to encourage bystander intervention by teaching skills and offering resources that support this behavior. Schools should also seek to ensure that bystanders are protected and students know not to put themselves in danger.
  • In a recent meta-analysis, it was found that programs are effective at changing bystander intervening behaviors whey there are opportunities for youth to discuss reasons why they might not intervene to help targets, develop understandings of others, and practice effective bystander intervention skills with role-plays (Polanin, Espelage, & Pigott, 2012).

Bullying is not a “rite of passage” but a serious threat to student safety and well-being.

  • Some say bullying makes children tougher and is not a serious problem, but the reality is that students who are bullied are more likely to report increased negative effects to their emotional and physical health.
  • Students, parents, educators, and communities all have a responsibility to address bullying in schools, on line and in communities.
  • Many students feel that the adults in their lives – parents, teachers, community members – are failing to adequately address this issue (Danielson & Emmers-Sommer, 2016; Tenenbaum, Varjas, Meyers, & Paris, 2011 ).
  • Areas of concern include:
    • Education – School avoidance, loss of academic achievement and increase in drop out rates
    • Health – Physical and emotional including stomachaches, headaches, sleeping issues, depression, fear or anxiety
    • Safety – Harm to self and others, including self-isolation, increased aggression, alienation, and retaliation.

Anyone can bully, and anyone can be bullied.

  • Bullying is a behavior, not an identity. Labeling as student as a “bully” can have a detrimental effect on their future and often limits their ability to change their behavior (, 2016 ).
  • Students can have multiple roles: they can be the one subjected to bullying and the one who bullies (, 2016 ). Strategies that focus on holding students accountable for their behavior – but also empower them to change that behavior – are more effective than punitive punishments and peer mediation in bullying situations.
  • Any student can exhibit bullying behavior – male or female, popular or un popular, students with good grades, and those who struggle academically. Teachers need to focus on a student’s behavior, not their profile, when determining if bullying occurred.

Bullying isn’t about resolving conflict; bullying is about control.

  • In conflict, children self-monitor their behavior and generally stop when they realize they are hurting someone.
  • When bullying, children continue their behavior when they realize it is hurting someone, and are satisfied by a feeling of power and control.
  • Bullying does not occur between evenly matched opponents; the child bullying has more power in some way than the target (Salmivalli, 2010 ).
  • Rigby (2008) identifies six of the most common power resources:
    1. Being able to physically hurt others, often due to being superior in size, strength, or physical capabilities.
    2. Being numerically superior, such as a group of three individuals ganging up on one individual.
    3. Being more confident and assertive than others, which can propel someone to directly make fun of another individual without worrying how that will influence themselves or their reputations.
    4. Having superior social or manipulation skills, which can provide the ability to turn people against someone or have them excluded.
    5. Having greater social status and the ability to influence others, or access to embarrassing or private information.
    6. Being able to threaten with sophistication or hurt others, such as making fun of someone in a subtle way that goes unnoticed by adults in schools, which allows the bullying to continue.

Effective bullying prevention efforts involve students, parents, teachers, and community members.

  • Involving community members such as law enforcement officials, faith organizations, community action groups, and others allows school officials and parents to address the bigger issues of disrespect, bias, and violence that can contribute to bullying issues in schools (, 2016; Swearer, Wang, Collins, Strawhun, & Fluke, 2014 ).
  • A community-wide effort shows students that adults care what happens to them and that they are not alone.
  • There are inconsistent findings for the effectiveness of zero-tolerance and peer mediation approaches to school bullying. Programs that emphasize prevention, early identification of students with behavioral concerns, and provide prosocial social skills instruction (e.g., building character and empathy, providing social- and emotional-development skills, and conflict management skills) are successful at reducing bullying behaviors and victimization (Swearer, Wang, Collins, Strawhun, & Fluke, 2014 ).
  • According to the Center for Disease Control , promising elements of bullying prevention programs include:
    • Multi-tiered systems of support, which includes universal programs or activities for all youth within the community or school; selective interventions for groups of youth at risk for being involved in bullying; and preventive interventions tailored for students already involved in bullying.
    • Multicomponent programs that address multiple aspects of bullying behavior and the environments that support it. Examples include examining school rules and using behavior management techniques and social emotional learning in the classroom and throughout the school to detect and provide consequences for bullying.
    • School-wide prevention activities that include improving the school climate, strengthening supervision of students, and having a school-wide anti-bullying policy.
    • Involving families and communities by helping caregivers learn how to talk about bullying and get involved with school-based prevention efforts.
    • Developing long-term school-wide approaches that strengthen youth’s social-emotional, communication, and problem-solving skills.
    • Focusing on program fidelity by forming an implementation team to make sure the programs are carried out exactly as they were designed.
  • According to a recent meta-analysis (Lee, Kim, & Kim, 2015), successful bullying prevention programs include the following
    • Training in emotional control (awareness of personal feelings and the feelings of others, self-regulation of impulses and actions)
    • Training in peer counseling (education and activities that empower students to help one during bullying situations)
    • Establishment of a school policy on bullying (schools regularly assessing the needs of their students, establishing and revising school bullying policies with the support of school administration, and promoting a school culture that does not tolerate bullying).
  • Effective bullying prevention tactics include school-wide instruction on the behaviors that are expected. Rather than only focusing on rules about what students should not do, schools should also advocate positively stated expectations to students, such as being respectful and kind to others (Ross & Horner, 2014).
  • Students and educators believe that, in order to prevent Cyberbullying, schools need to cultivate positive and kind online behaviors for students rather than merely trying to curtail the negative behaviors, which is what they referred to as “cyber kindness”  (Cassidy, Brown, & Jackson, 2011).
  • It is essential for bullying prevention efforts to include education and awareness about how to be inclusive of peers, particularly for students with disabilities (Falkmer, Anderson, Joosten, & Falkmer, 2015; Raskauskas & Modell, 2011), or students who identify as LGBTQ (Snapp, McGuire, Sinclair, Gabrion, & Russell, 2015).
  • Youths’ resilience is a protective factor in mitigating the negative effects of bullying. Resilience is one’s ability to spring back, rebound, and successfully cope with bullying victimization. Resilience is fostered with supportive environments, positive peer relationships, a sense of belonging, and self-efficacy (Hinduja & Patchin, 2017).
  • Mentoring is a useful strategy for bullying prevention. Older peer mentors can serve as positive role models to younger students by modeling appropriate and alternative ways of responding to bullying situations, as well as identifying responsible online behavior to prevent Cyberbullying (Studer & Mynatt, 2015).
  • Allowing students to be involved in bullying prevention efforts has a great impact. Students feel empowered by being directly involved in analyzing bullying issues, creating ideas to help solve the problem, and enact creative solutions. Student-led bullying prevention initiatives give students self-efficacy and a sense of agency with leadership (Shriberg et al., 2017).


Cassidy, W., Brown, K., & Jackson, M. (2011). Moving from cyber-bullying to cyberkindness: What do students, educators and parents say? In E. Dunkels, G-M. Frånberg, & C. Hällgren (Eds.), Youth culture and net culture: Online social practices (pp. 256-277). New York: IGI Global Press. Retrieved from

Center for Disease Control, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (2017). Preventing bullying. Retrieved from

Danielson, C. M., & Emmers-Sommer, T. (2016). “She stopped me from killing myself”: Bullied bloggers’ coping behaviors and support sources. Health Communication, 1-10. Retrieved from

Falkmer, M., Anderson, K., Joosten, A., & Falkmer, T. (2015). Parents’ perspectives on inclusive schools for children with autism spectrum conditions. International Journal of Disability, Development, and Education, 62, 1-23. Retrieved from

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O’Connell, P., Pepler, D., & Craig, W. (1999). Peer involvement in bullying: Insights and challenges for intervention. Journal of Adolescence, 22, 437-452. Retrieved from
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Ross, S. W., & Horner, R. H. (2014). Bullying prevention in positive behavior support. Journal of Emotional and Behavior Disorders, 22, 225-235. Retrieved from

Salmivalli, C. (2010). Bullying and the peer group: A review. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 15, 112-120. Retrieved from

Shriberg, D., Brooks, K., Jenkins, K., Immen, J., Sutter, C., & Cronin, K. (2017). Using Student Voice to Respond to Middle School Bullying: A Student Leadership Approach. School Psychology Forum, 11, 20-33. Retrieved from

Snapp, S. D., McGuire, J. K., Sinclair, K. O., Gabrion, K., & Russell, S. T. (2015). LGBTQ-inclusive curricula: Why supportive curricula matter. Sex Education, 15, 580-596. Retrieved from

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Swearer, S. M., Wang, C., Collins, A., Strawhun, J., & Fluke, S. (2014). Bullying: A school mental health perspective. In M. Weist, N. Lever, C. Bradshaw, & O. J. Sarno (Eds.), Handbook of school mental health: Research, training, practice, and policy (2nd ed. Pp. 341-354). New York: NY: Springer Science

Tenebaum, L. S., Varjas, K., Meyers, J., & Parris, L. (2011). Coping strategies and perceived effectiveness in fourth through eighth grade victims of bullying. School Psychology International, 32, 263-287. Retrieved from

Updated December 27, 2017