, Volume 17, Issue 8, pp 463-472
Date: 09 Apr 2008

Victimization and bullying among 8-year-old Finnish children

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Abstract

Objective

There are only few population-based time-trend studies on changes in prevalence of bullying and victimization among children. The main aim of this study was to find out whether changes have occurred in prevalence rates of bullying and victimization from 1989 to 1999 among eight-year-old children. The associations between victimization and bullying and psychiatric symptoms and their possible differences in the statistical strengths of associations between the years 1989 and 1999 were also studied.

Method

Two cross-sectional, representative samples from southern Finland were compared. All children born in 1981 (1989 sample, n = 985, response rate 95%) and 1991 (1999 sample, n = 962, response rate 86%) and living in the selected school district were included in the study samples. Children, parents and teachers were asked about bullying and victimization. The Children’s Depression Inventory and Rutter’s parent and teacher scales were used to study psychiatric symptoms.

Results

In 1999, fewer 8-year-old children were victims of bullying than in 1989. There was a decrease in the number of bullies but the change was statistically significant only in the parental reports. The statistical strengths of associations of victimization and bullying with psychiatric symptoms were mainly the same in 1989 as in 1999.

Conclusions

Slightly decreased levels of victimization among 8-year-old Finnish children is a promising result, but further time-trend studies are needed, as well as qualitative studies, to obtain a deeper understanding of the bullying phenomenon and the factors reducing it. It might be that especially young children are suspectible to influences diminishing victimisation and bullying.