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Due, P., & Holstein, B.E. (2008). Bullying victimization among 13 to 15 year old school children: Results from two comparative studies in 66 countries and regions. International Journal of Adolescent Medicine and Health, 20, 209–221.

Bullying is defined as a deliberate, repeated, or long-term exposure to negative acts performed by a person or group of persons regarded of higher status or of greater strength than the victim. Bullying may be verbal, physical, or social acts. The prevalence of bullying decreases with age, and bullying is strongly associated with physical and psychological health outcomes. Victims have difficulty in establishing social relationships with their peers, and some react by bullying others, creating a vicious cycle that can be hard to end.

Method: Two internationally surveys were utilized, the Health Behavior in School-aged Children survey among 13 and 15 year olds in samples of schools from Europe, North America, and Israel, and the Global School-based Health Student survey. 218,104 students participated. In the Health Behavior in School-aged Children survey, bullying was measured by the item: ‘How often have you been bullied at school in the past couple of months?’ The responses were I haven’t been bullied at school the past couple of months, it has only happened once or twice, 2 or 3 times a month, about once a week, and several times a week. In the Global School-based Health Student survey, bullying was measured by the item: ‘During the past 30 days, on how many days were you bullied?’ The responses were 0, 1-2, 3-5, 6-9, 10 to 19, 20-29, and all 30 days.

Results: 32.1% of children were bullied at school at least once within the past 2 months in countries involved in the HBSC survey, and 37.4% of children were bullied at least once with the past 30 days in countries involved in the GSHS survey. A large variation in prevalence was seen across countries. Canada, France, and the United States all used the HBSC survey. In Canada, there was a larger bullying prevalence among boys (37% vs. 33.2%). In the United States, it was similar with boys having a prevalence rate of 35.4% vs. 31.2% for girls. However, in France girls had a higher rate of bullying (35.6%) than boys (33%). Overall, prevalence was highest among boys (39.4% in the GSHS study and 33% in the HBSC study) but only slightly smaller among girls (33% in the GSHS and 29.2% in HBSC). In France the difference of bullying for boys was more than 10% higher than for girls.

Discussion: Overall, bullying was highly prevalent in most of the countries surveyed. On average, every third child has been exposed to bullying within the past months. A recent study involving Japan, South Africa, and the U.S. suggest that physical child harm in the families may be related to bullying behavior. Children who were not physically harmed by a family member in their childhood had the lowest risk of being involved in bullying as children.