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KnowledgeBases > Bullying - Related Research

Understanding school bullying from a research basis is an essential element to addressing the problem. The articles reviewed offer a perspective on bullying studies conducted by health care researchers. The references cited are provided as a sampling and are not intended as a comprehensive literature review. The articles can be acquired through the National Library of Medicine .

Bullying at School: Basic Facts and Effects of a School Based Intervention Program, Olweus Dan, Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, Vol. 35. No. 7, pp 1171-1190, 1994

This landmark article reviews research findings from four studies on school bullying conducted in Norway and Sweden during the 1970's and 1980's as well as discussing the effects of a schoolwide intervention program in 42 schools in Bergen, Norway. This article was one of the first to review bullying research.

In Olweus' view, "A student is being bullied or victimized when he or she is exposed, repeatedly and over time, to negative actions on the part of one more or other students." He goes on to state that bullying is characterized by three criteria: 1) it is aggressive behavior or intentional "harmdoing" 2) which is carried out "repeatedly and over time" c) in an interpersonal relationship characterized by an imbalance in power. Additionally, he notes it often occurs without apparent provocation.

In his review of the four studies, Olweus looks at prevalence, bully/victim problems in different grades, and bullying among boys and girls. In regard to prevalence, he noted bullying was a considerable problem in Norwegian schools and affected a very large number of students. As for problems in different grades, he noted the problem was particularly marked in the lower grades with the younger children. Between boys and girls, the findings showed boys more exposed to bullying than girls. He also found boys carried out a large part of the bullying to which girls were subjected.

Olweus characterizes the typical victim as more anxious and insecure than other other students and often cautious, sensitive and quiet. He goes onto state that victims suffer from low self-esteem, have a negative view of themselves and their situation, and often look upon themselves as failures or feel stupid, ashamed, and unattractive. Conversely, bullies are characterized by their aggression toward their peers and are often aggressive toward teachers and parents, too. Bullies are impulsive, have a strong need to dominate and have little empathy with victims of bullying.

The article also reviews the positive affects of a schoolwide bullying prevention program introduced into 42 Bergen, Norway schools.


Bullying Behaviors Among US Youth, Tonja R. Nansel, PhD; Mary Overpeck, DrPH; Ramani S. Pilla, PhD; W. June Ruan, MA; Bruce Simons-Morton, EdD, MPH; Peter Scheidt, MD, MPH, Journal of the American Medical Association, 2001;285:2094-2100.

This article gives an account of a survey undertaken by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development that was part of a World Heath Organization study to quantify bullying in schools. Among the US sample, an 83% participation rate was achieved. The findings demonstrated the prevalence of bullying among U.S. youth is substantial. The authors concluded that given the concurrent behavioral and emotional difficulties associated with bullying, as well as the potential long-term negative outcomes for these youth, the issue of bullying merits serious attention, both for future research and preventive intervention.


Principals' Perceptions and Practices of School Bullying Prevention Activities, Drake, Joseph A., MPH, PhD, Price, James H., Phd, MPH, Telljohann, Susan K., HSD, CHES, Funk, Jeanne B., PhD, Health Education & Behavior, Vol. 31, No. 3, 372-387 (2004).

The purpose of this study was to examine principals’ perceptions and practices regarding bullying prevention. Study participants were selected from the Common Core Data of the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Educational Statistics. A survey instrument was sent to the selected elementary school principals. Of 700 questionnaires, 15 were undeliverable resulting in a potential sample size of 685. A total of 378 principals responded, resulting in a 55.2% response rate. The majority of respondents were female (57.7%), white (85.4%), and from urban schools (61.6%). Nearly 45% of the respondents were between 50-59 years of age and slightly over one-third were from the South (34.95).

Up to the time of this study, no published study had investigated principals' perceptions or practices regarding bullying prevention. This study found components of a "whole school approach" to bullying prevention was rarely being conducted in elementary schools. Though responding principals stated there would be no barriers to any of the identified bullying prevention activities, the barriers identified included a lack of priority relative to other problems, lack of training, or lack of resources.

As for the principals' perceptions of the extent of bullying, they perceived the extent of bullying in their own school to be less than the extent of in U.S. elementary schools in general. Only 2 of 378 respondents felt bullying in their school was worse than the extent nationally.

In regard to their perceptions of effectiveness of bullying prevention activities, principals perceived post-bullying activities to be the most effective means of reducing bullying problems followed by improved student supervision and environmental bullying prevention activities. The study found principals who received bullying prevention training were more likely to perceive primary prevention activities as effective.

The study's researchers note the results show a need to educate principals regarding the magnitude of bullying problems in elementary schools and methods to reduce bullying episodes. They also concluded very few elementary schools have implemented school-based activities shown to reduce problems of school bullying.


The Nature and Extent of Bullying at School, Dake JA, Price JH, Telljohann SK, Journal of School Health, 2003 May;73(5):173-80.

The authors' reviews focus on assessing the extent of bullying in schools. Their findings noted in elementary schools, the prevalence of bullying ranges from 11.3% in Finland to 49.8% in Ireland. The only United States study of elementary students found that 19% were bullied. Bullying behavior declines as students progress through the grades. Their review found that the most effective methods of bullying reduction involve a whole-school approach. This method includes assessing the problem, planning school conference days, providing better supervision at recess, forming a bullying prevention coordinating group, encouraging parent-teacher meetings, establishing classroom rules against bullying, holding classroom meetings about bullying, requiring talks with the bullies and victims, and scheduling talks with the parents of involved students. Lastly, they suggest further studies are needed to understand the bullying problem in U.S. schools.


Bullying in Schools and Exposure to Domestic Violence, Baldry AC, Child Abuse & Neglect, 2003 Jul;27(7):713-32.

This article gives an account of an Italian study looking at the relationship of school bullying and exposure to domestic violence. The study examined the relationship between bullying and victimization at school and exposure to inter-parental violence at home in a sample of non-clinical Italian students. The results indicated that bullying and victimization are associated with domestic violence, though exposure to domestic violence does not, per se, fully predict behavior at school, especially among boys. The study's limitations were that data was collected through a self-report questionnaire completed by the children and the measure for parental child abuse was limited to asking about parental harm inflicted to the child.


Interventions to Reduce School Bullying, Smith PK, Ananiadou K, Cowie H, Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 2003 Oct;48(9):591-9.

The authors reviewed a number of studies on school-level interventions aimed at reducing bullying in schools. The interventions studied included whole-school policy, classroom climate, peer-support systems, school tribunals, playground improvement, curriculum work, working with specific pupils, community conferencing as transformative justice, and large-scale intervention projects in schools with systematic evaluation. Their findings note that there are many school-based interventions that can be used to tackle school bullying. These interventions can help to reduce the harmful effects of victimization. However, more process and outcome research is needed to improve intervention effectiveness.


Source: United States National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health

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