Preventing Bullying: Through Science, Policy, and Practice

Publication date: 
September, 2017
National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine

Preventing Bullying: Through Science, Policy, and Practice

Bullying is a public health problem.

Bullying has long been tolerated by many people as a rite of passage among children and teens. But bullying is not a normal part of childhood. It is a serious public health problem. Bullying harms the child who is bullied, the child who is the bully, and the bystanders.

There are four main types of bullying:

  • Physical bullying involves the use of physical force (such as shoving, hitting, spitting, pushing, and tripping).
  • Verbal bullying involves words or writing that cause harm (such as taunting, name calling, offensive notes or hand gestures, verbal threats).
  • Relational bullying is behavior designed to harm the reputation and relationships of the targeted youth (such as social isolation, rumor-spreading, posting mean comments or pictures online).
  • Damage to property is theft or damaging of the target youth’s property by the bully in order to cause harm.

Cyberbullying is not a separate type of bullying, but a way in which some types of bullying can happen. For example, verbal bullying and relational bullying can happen online.

Bullying can happen as early as preschool, but bullying is most likely to happen during middle school. It can happen in many different settings – in classrooms, in school gyms and cafeterias, on school buses, and online.

Bullying affects a large number of children and youth.

School-based bullying probably affects between 18 and 31 percent of children and youth, and cyberbullying probably affects about 7 to 15 percent of youth. Some young people are more likely to be bullied: youth with disabilities, obese youth, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth.

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