Bullying in America: Facts & Statistics

Instructor: Michelle Blessing

Michelle is a former therapist and adult education/college instructor. She holds a Master's degree in Psychology and a Bachelor's degree in Sociology.

Bullying goes beyond simple childhood teasing. Adolescents and adults report being bullied, as well, with serious implications. Bullies and victims tend to have distinct characteristics and risk factors, and the statistics on bullying might surprise you.

Bullying: An Epidemic?

Imagine you are walking down the street with a friend, enjoying a nice walk on a beautiful day. Suddenly, you hear a commotion and look to your left. You see a group of children, maybe around the age of 12, taunting another child. You hear the group calling names, and you watch in horror as one of the children in the group shoves the other child to the ground. The others laugh and mock the child as he lies on the ground. What do you do?

Bullying is any situation in which children, adolescents, or even adults engage in behavior that is intended to harm another person. Bullying tactics can range from verbal insults to physical altercations. In fact, between 20 and 28 percent of children in grades 6-12 report having been bullied at least once in their lifetime. And since only about 36 percent of children report being bullied to an adult, the actual number of children and adolescents being bullied is significantly higher. Bullying does not necessarily end once you become an adult, either; 27 percent of adults report being bullied in the workplace, although fewer than 20 percent will actually report it. More than half of workplace bullying is perpetrated by a supervisor or other person in power.

The statistics on bullying might be shocking to some people.
bullying in school

To Intervene or Not?

Not all children or adults will be bullied in their lifetime, but at least 70 percent have reported seeing bullying occur at least once. Almost 40 percent have seen bullying occur on a regular basis (weekly), yet very few people intervene during a bullying incident. Let's go back to the initial situation, in which you were walking with your friend and saw a child being bullied. As a bystander, you could ignore the bullying, alert an adult, talk to the bully about his or her behavior privately, or confront the bully during the situation. If you choose to confront the bully, it is almost 60 percent likely the situation will end within 10 seconds. Knowing that fact, would you choose to walk away or take action?

Types of Bullying

Bullying can take various forms, from verbal or social to physical and cyber-bullying. The following chart shows the different types of bullying and the frequency with which each occurs (numbers are rounded).

Bullying Types

Verbal bullying tends to be the most common form, with negative remarks on social media being the least common. Children and adolescents can be victims, perpetrators, or play both roles in terms of bullying. According to one study, about 41% of students in grades 4-12 reported some involvement in bullying within the past month. The following chart gives a breakdown of the role children of that age group play in bullying (numbers are rounded).

Bully Stats

Risk Factors and Effects

Bullying happens to most children from time to time. However, certain characteristics may make a child or adolescent more vulnerable to bullying. The following are issues or characteristics that increase the chance a child or adolescent will be bullied at some point in life:

  • Diagnosis with special needs, such as autism or Down's syndrome
  • Being overweight
  • Being a part of the LGBQT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Queer, or Transgender) community
  • Having a physical limitation or deformity
  • Labeled as different or weird due to some personality trait or interest

Bullying can lead to depression, among other issues.
sad child in rain

Race and physical characteristics are two of the main reasons children and adolescents report being bullied. When asked why they believed they were bullied, children reported looks (55 percent), body shape (37 percent), and race (16 percent). Children who are bullied because of their race (an uncontrollable factor) tend to suffer the impact of bullying more severely, experiencing not only mental but physical effects as well.

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