Source:Glew GM, Fan MY, Katon W, et al. Bullying and school safety.
J Pediatr.
–128; doi:10.1016/j.jpeds.2007.05.045

To determine if there is an association between bullying, psychosocial distress, and school problems, University of Washington researchers conducted a cross-sectional study on bullying involvement among seventh, ninth, and eleventh graders in a large urban school district in a west coast US city.

Study data were collected by including questions in the participating school district’s annual student school climate survey. Survey answers were linked to de-identified computerized school records, including data on grade point average, attendance, expulsions, suspensions, and demographic characteristics.

Overall, 5,391 of 6,836 (79%) district students participated in the survey. Students were classified as victims (15%), bullies (7%), bully-victims (reporting victimization and bullying, 4%), or bystanders (no bullying experience, 74%). Bystanders were used as the reference group for all analyses. Students classified as victims, bullies, or bully-victims were all significantly more likely than bystanders to feel unsafe at school. Students in each of the three groups were more likely to be male. Compared with bystanders, students in the other three groups were at least 1.5 times more likely to feel sad on most days. Victims were 1.7 times more likely to feel like they “didn’t belong” (P<.001). Both victims and bully-victims were more likely to respond that sometimes they felt “no good at all.” Victims, bullies, and bully-victims were not significantly more likely to be absent from school, to smoke cigarettes, to use alcohol, or to be suspended or expelled.

Students classified as victims were more likely to endorse “stealing if they knew they could get away with it,” but were not significantly more likely than bystanders to engage in other high-risk behaviors. Not surprisingly, bullies were more likely to endorse beating up others (OR 3.0). Bullies were also more likely to report that it was acceptable to cheat (OR 2.3) and pick fights (OR 2.3), while bully-victims were more likely than bystanders to report that they would cheat at school if they could get away with it (OR 3.1). Most alarmingly, bully-victims were more than three times more likely to endorse bringing a gun to school (OR 3.3) than bystanders. In addition, victims had significantly lower grade point averages (GPAs) than bystander controls: for each one-point rise in GPA, the odds of being a victim versus a bystander decreased by 10%.

The authors conclude that associations between bullying involvement and academic achievement, psychological distress, and the belief that it is not wrong to take a gun to school reinforce the notion that school environment is interrelated with mental health and school success.

Dr. Pujazon-Zazik has disclosed no financial relationship relevant to this commentary. This commentary does not contain a discussion of an unapproved/investigative use of a commercial product/device.

Bullying is defined as any repeated negative activity or aggression intended to harm or bother someone perceived by peers as less physically or psychologically powerful than the aggressor.1 

In 2000, the US Secret Service...

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