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A Cross-National Profile of Bullying and Victimization Among Adolescents in 40 Countries

This paper aims to compare estimates of the prevalence of bullying and associated victimization, and how these patterns change with age in adolescence and across countries using standard measures and methods. In addition, the relevance of the developmental context was investigated and the occurrence of direct physical, direct verbal, and indirect types of bullying is described in a subsample of 6 countries. Finally, age and gender differences in bullying across countries will be examined. We expect that the age-related patterns will be similar across countries, although the prevalence will likely vary due to larger cultural factors.

 School-based anonymous surveys were conducted during the 2005/06 school year according to a common The Health Behavior in School-Aged Children (HBSC) research protocol. Each participating country surveyed a representative sample of school children ages 11, 13 and 15 (approximately grades 6th, 8th and 10th) using identical sampling method. Two mandatory questions on bullying and victimization were included in the survey and were used by all 40 participating countries (N = 202,056)

 In all 40 countries, participants were asked to report “How many times they had been bullied at school in the past 2 months and how often they had taken part in bullying another student(s) at school in the past 2 months”. Possible responses were:

  1. never,
  2. once or twice,
  3. 2 or 3 times a month,
  4. about once a week, or
  5. several times a week.
  • Those who reported taking part in bullying ≥2 or 3 times a month and did not report being victimized were classified as “children who bully others”.
  • Those who reported being bullied ≥2 or 3 times a month and did not report bullying others were classified as children who were “victimized by bullying”.
  • Those who reported bullying ≥2 or 3 times a month and being bullied ≥2 or 3 times a month were classified as having dual status, “bully-victims”.

 In summary, this paper provided that an understanding of the problem begins with prevalence estimates and national and cross-national comparisons. More knowledge about the etiology of bullying and the psychosocial and behavioral determinants, and the role of contextual factors is needed, including national, prospective, and cross-national studies of etiology. There is a growing need for more intensive international collaboration in both research and the development and evaluation of prevention strategies so that we can be more effective in reducing this public health problem. There may be valuable lessons to be learned from current research conducted in countries where the reported prevalence is low that could be adapted for use in countries with higher prevalence. Health promotion and prevention strategies need to address bullying problems to make the world safer for all adolescents.


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