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International Journal of Bullying Prevention

, Volume 1, Issue 3, pp 187–204 | Cite as

Bullying Victimization Among Asian-American Youth: a Review of the Literature

  • Shu-Tzu HuangEmail author
  • Rebecca A. Vidourek
Original Article

Abstract

Bullying is a significant public health and social problem in the United States. As a fast-growing immigrant population, Asian-American youth are being bullied at school, yet little is known about their experience in bullying victimization. Thus, the purpose of this article is to review current findings regarding bullying victimization among Asian-American youth. A review of the literature was conducted. Twenty-three articles that met the inclusion criteria were included in the present review. The research team identified six themes including the prevalence of bullying victimization; impacts of bullying victimization; risk factors of being bullied; reporting on bullying incidents; coping strategies of parents, teachers, and schools; and current efforts to address bullying victimization. Studies indicate that 5–50% of Asian-American youth are bullied, which tends to be lower than the rates in white students, African-American students, and Hispanic students. However, bullying victimization is associated with adverse mental health and academic performance in Asian-American youth. The included studies examine individual, family, peer, school, and community factors that are related to being bullied in this population. Research also shows that only about 33% of Asian-American youth victims notify an adult after the bullying incidents. Recommendations for bullying prevention among this population are discussed.

Keywords

Asian American Youth Immigrant Bullying Bullying victimization School victimization 

Introduction

Bullying in the United States

In the United States (US), bullying is a prevalent problem within schools that may have substantial negative impacts on students. Bullying is a form of violence which is defined as any behaviors that are unwarranted, unwanted, and aggressive by one or more youth that also involves an imbalance of power (Gladden et al. 2014). Bullying tends to be repeated behaviors or behaviors that are likely to be repeated in the future (Gladden et al. 2014). According to the results of a national survey by the National Center for Education Statistics in the United States, in 2015, more than one in five students ages 12 to 18 reported being bullied at school in the past year (Lessne and Yanez 2016; Musu-Gillette et al. 2017). Another national study in the US found 19.0% of high school students reported bullying victimization during 2017 (Kann et al. 2018).

Concerning demographic influences, female students report a higher annual percentage of bullying compared with their male counterparts (22.8% vs. 18.8%) (Lessne and Yanez 2016; Musu-Gillette et al. 2017). African-American students (24.7%) had the highest percentage of being bullied at school in the past year, followed by white students (21.6%), Hispanic students (17.2%), and Asian students (15.6%) (Lessne and Yanez 2016). A greater percentage of middle school students report experiencing bullying compared with high school students (Lessne and Yanez 2016). Among bullying victims, about one third of victims were bullied at least once a month, and 13.8% were bullied at least once a week (Lessne and Yanez 2016).

A bullying incident could be direct or indirect, depending on whether it happens in the presence of the victim. It may occur at school, on the way to and from school, and in the community. It may also happen on the Internet or via technology, which is referred to as cyberbullying or electronic bullying. There are four major types of bullying (Gladden et al. 2014). Physical bullying involves physical force against the victim, such as spitting, pushing, and punching. Verbal bullying includes spoken words, written words, and hand gestures that harm the victim, such as teasing, threatening, and name-calling. Relational bullying, also referred to as social bullying, involves behaviors that hurt the victim’s relationships or reputation. Some examples include isolating the victim on purpose and spreading embarrassing pictures or rumors of the victim. Lastly, occupying or damaging the property of the victim is also considered as bullying. The top three types of bullying among students ages 12–18 in 2015 were verbal bullying, relational bullying, and physical bullying (Lessne and Yanez 2016).

Consequences and Outcomes of Bullying Victimization

Being bullied is found to be associated with poor health outcomes including depression and anxiety, poor academic performance, lower self-esteem, substance use, unprotected sex, violence involvement, and suicide ideation and planning among middle and high school students (Bhatta et al. 2014; Gruber and Fineran 2008; Hertz et al. 2015; Kaitiala-Heino and Frojd 2011; Nakamoto and Schwartz 2010). Furthermore, bullying victimization increases the risk of diminished health, psychiatric disorders, poverty, unemployment, and unfavorable social relationships in adulthood (Copeland et al. 2013; Wolke et al. 2013). Previous research indicates that Asian, African-American, and Hispanic students experience the same level of negative impact of bullying victimization on grade point average as white students (Williams and Peguero 2013).

Asian Americans and Bullying Victimization

Asians are considered a fast-growing population in the United States. According to the US Census Bureau, in 2016, 21.4 million people identify as Asian alone or in combination with other races (US Census Bureau, Population Division 2017). From 2000 to 2010, the Asian population grew more quickly than the total population as well as any other racial or ethnic group in the US (Hoeffel et al. 2012). It is expected that Asian Americans will eventually become the largest immigrant group in the US (López et al. 2017).

Asian Americans are often stereotyped as the “model minority,” which is the minority population attaining high achievement, working diligently, behaving well, and being intelligent (Oyserman and Sakamoto 1997; Thompson and Kiang 2010). Although these kinds of stereotypes seem positive, about 25% of Asian-American adolescents considered the stereotypes to be stressful, frustrating, or inappropriate (Thompson and Kiang 2010). Additionally, the model minority myth may mask the mental health needs among Asian Americans (Cheng et al. 2017). This is a diverse group with various backgrounds and sociodemographic characteristics (Asian American and Pacific Islander Boys and Men of Color Coalition Helping Achieve Racial and Gender Equity 2017; Zhou and Xiong 2005). On average, Asian Americans have greater socioeconomic well-being and higher educational attainment than the overall US population (López et al. 2017; U.S. Census Bureau 2018). However, it should be noted that achievements vary widely across country-of-origin groups (U.S. Census Bureau 2018).

Concerning bullying experiences, 15.6% of Asian-American students report being bullied at school, which is lower than the rates in African Americans (24.7%), whites (21.6%), and Hispanics (17.2%) (Lessne and Yanez 2016). Immigrant students are at greater risk than students who were born in the United States to experience all types of bullying victimization (Maynard et al. 2016; Pottie et al. 2015). Asian-American first- (i.e., individuals who were born in foreign countries with both parents born in foreign countries) and second- (i.e., individuals who were born in the United States with at least one parent born in foreign countries) generation immigrants were more likely to experience violent and property victimization compared with the Asian-American third-plus generation (i.e., individuals who were born in the United States with both parents born in the United States) (Peguero 2009). Previous studies indicate that language issues and the acculturation process may play an important role in this relationship (Pottie et al. 2015; Peguero 2009).

Acculturation is a gradual process that individuals change their behaviors to fit in the mainstream society and adopt the norms and values of the host culture. Berry (1997) posits acculturation involves adapting psychologically, socioculturally, and economically and may result in either integration or marginalization. At the group, adaptations may include physical changes such as living location, biological changes such as changes in diet, economic changes, social changes such as new relationships, and cultural changes such as language or religious changes. Additionally, scholars suggest that although acculturation provides Asian Americans with better opportunities in the United States, the problem of racialization and discrimination remains (Lee and Kye 2016). Acculturation may impact immigrants’ behaviors and experience. Among Asian-American youth, research documented that a higher level of acculturation was a risk factor of violent behaviors, whereas a lower level of acculturation was a risk factor of victimization (Smokowski et al. 2009). Additionally, individualism may also increase the likelihood of delinquency, substance use, and nonfamilial physical victimization in Asian-American youth (Le and Stockdale 2005; Le et al. 2009; Le and Wallen 2009). In contrast, collectivism of Asian culture is a protective factor of delinquency but not nonfamilial victimization (Le and Stockdale 2005; Le and Wallen 2009). Research indicates that strong identification with the greater culture may be protective; however, it may enhance negative experiences with other races and ethnicities (Yip et al. 2008). Strongly identifying with a culture may result in increases in awareness to experiences and signs against the identified group, in this case, Asian-Americans (Hornsey 2008).

Furthermore, ethnic identity is viewed as a sense of belonging to a population or culture that may influence one’s values and behaviors (Phinney 1990). Whereas adolescence is a crucial period of identity establishment, immigrant youth may struggle with identity confusion between their original culture and the host culture. Previous studies indicate that ethnic identity is a protective factor of delinquency but not nonfamilial victimization in Asian-American youth (Le and Stockdale 2005; Le and Wallen 2009). Moreover, ethnic identity is positively associated with well-being (Lee 2003). Unfortunately, research finds mixed results regarding the moderation effect of ethnic identity on the relationship between discrimination and well-being. Two studies indicate that ethnic identity may diminish the negative impacts of discrimination or have no significant effect, whereas one study suggests that ethnic identity may worsen the impacts (Lee 2003; Lee 2005; Yoo and Lee 2008). As the role of ethnic identity on preventing bullying is undefined, future research is warranted to examine its potential impacts.

In general, Asian-American students perceive race or ethnicity origin as the characteristic related to bullying compared with students of any other races/ethnicities (Lessne and Yanez 2016). Breaking the stereotyping that Asians are shy and inactive may exacerbate their bullying victimization experience (Asian American and Pacific Islander Boys and Men of Color Coalition Helping Achieve Racial and Gender Equity 2017). For example, research suggests that Asian-American youth who were athletes were more likely to be bullied compared with white and African-American students who were protected from bullying by being involved in sports (Peguero and Williams 2013). In addition, Asian-American students who were more involved in extracurricular activities were at a greater risk of being bullied, whereas this relationship was not found in white students (Peguero et al. 2015). While immigrant students try to integrate with the majority at school, the unfavorable treatment may hinder the students from joining activities due to fear of bullying victimization. Hong et al. (2014) adopt the social-ecological model to explain bullying and peer victimization among Hispanic and Asian youth; bullying experience is concurrently influenced by ontogenetic factors (e.g., race/ethnicity and gender), microsystem (e.g., peers, environment at home or at school), exosystem (e.g., educational inequality), and macrosystem (e.g., immigration and socioeconomic status). Scholars suggest that identification of risk factors and learning from past experience in how those factors were addressed lead to effective problem prevention for adolescents (Hawkins et al. 1992). Some factors of bullying victimization regarding racial and cultural aspects, such as immigration status, language issues, and violation of stereotyping, echo parts of the aforementioned discussion on the acculturation process and the model minority myth among Asian-American youth (Rojas-Gaona et al. 2016).

In order to protect Asian-American youth from bullying victimization, we need to comprehensively examine risk and protective factors specifically for this population. Research indicates that Asian-American youth are often underrepresented or missing altogether from national surveys and datasets (Asian American Psychological Association 2012). Further, additional research suggests that the framing and wording of survey items influences how Asian-American youth respond to bullying items (Sawyer et al. 2007). For example, using term bullying results in lower reported rates of bullying among Asian-American males. Such factors make it difficult to evaluate this population and determine the full prevalence of bullying among Asian-American youth (Asian American Psychological Association 2012). Local level survey data suggests Asian Americans are at higher risk for bullying than other racial and ethnic minority groups. In a study of California youth, Asian-American students were most likely to be bullied across schools (Mouttapa et al. 2004). In another study of New York public schools, Asian-American students reported greater levels of verbal bullying than other races and ethnicities (Rosenbloom and Way 2004). Thus, additional investigation of bullying among Asian-American youth is needed.

Research Objectives

As a prospective major immigrant population in the United States, it is imperative to understand the social and health problems that are common among Asian Americans. Bullying victimization is one problem that warrants immediate attention. Being a victim may adversely influence physical health, mental health, and social well-being throughout the life course (Copeland et al. 2013; Wolke et al. 2013). It is expected that holistic investigations on bullying and developments of prevention programs may benefit this unique minority group in the United States. As a result, the purpose of this article is to review current findings regarding bullying victimization among Asian-American youth.

Methods

The research team conducted a literature search of Academic Search Complete, CINAHL, Education Research Complete, MEDLINE, Psychology and Behavioral Sciences Collection, PsycINFO, and SocINDEX databases with the following search terms: Asian, Asian American, model minority, immigrant, youth, child, adolescent, bullying, bullied, bullying victimization, bullying victim, peer victimization, peer violence, school victimization, and school violence. Additionally, the Google search engine was also used to search for governmental reports and organizational reports regarding bullying victimization among Asian-American youth.

A selection of articles were first chosen based on titles and abstracts. The research team then reviewed all articles and identified related studies to the current review based on the inclusion criteria. The inclusion criteria were articles that (1) were published between 1 January 2000 and 31 May 2018, (2) focused on Asian-American youth ages 5–30 or included independent analyses in Asian-American youth ages 5–30, (3) addressed bullying victimization, (4) were conducted in the United States, and (5) were published in English. In accordance with the focus of this review on bullying victimization from peers at school or after school, the research team referred to the definition of youth adopted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States (ages 5 to 18 years) and expanded the age range to include young adults if they were asked to report their past bullying victimization experience (Gladden et al. 2014). As a result, only studies that aimed at participants ages 5–30 were included in this review. Additionally, bullying victimization discussed in this review comprised any forms of bullying victimization (e.g., physical/violent, verbal, social/relational, property, and electronic bullying victimization) from peers at school or after school. Articles that only discussed bully or bystander experience were excluded from this review. Similarly, articles that focused on victimization in general youth violence, community violence, discrimination, domestic violence, or dating violence were excluded as well. Articles met the aforementioned criteria were included in this review. Themes related to bullying victimization that emerged from these articles were identified by the research team.

Results

A total of 23 articles met the search criteria and were included in the current review. Among these articles, 19 are peer-reviewed articles and 4 are governmental or organizational reports. After thoroughly reviewing these articles, the research team identified six themes regarding bullying victimization among Asian-American youth that the included articles addressed: (1) prevalence of bullying victimization; (2) impacts of bullying victimization; (3) risk factors of being bullied; (4) reporting on bullying incidents; (5) coping strategies of parents, teachers, and schools; and (6) current efforts to address bullying victimization. Information regarding the included articles is presented (see Table 1).
Table 1

Summary of studies on bullying victimization among Asian-American youth meeting criteria for study inclusion

Study

Participants/informants

Study location

Study design

Bullying victimization measure

Major findings

Themes in this review

Asian American and Pacific Islander Boys and Men of Color Coalition Helping Achieve Racial and Gender Equity (2017)

Survey: Asian-American and Pacific Islander youth and young adults (n = 813); age = 12–30 years

5 focus groups: Asian-American and Pacific Islander youth and young adults (sample size and age not specified)

CA, USA

Cross-sectional; survey and focus groups

Not specified

Half of the survey respondents reported having been bullied at school.

Focus group participants identified stereotypes about Asian Americans (such as being shy and clever) as the potential reason for being bullied.

Prevalence

Risk factors

Cooc and Gee (2014)

Youth living in households (n = 37,191 in 6 waves of data from 2001 to 2011); age = 12–18 years; white 63%, Hispanic 18%, African American 13%, Asian American 4.1%, and mixed race 2.5%

USA

Cross-sectional/longitudinal; survey: 2001–2011 School Crime Supplement to the National Crime Victimization Survey

2001 and 2003: “During the last 6 months, have you been bullied at school? That is, has anyone picked on you a lot or tried to make you do things you did not want to do like give them money?” (p. 842)

2005–2011: 7 questions regarding specific bullying experience such as being teased and physical violence

The prevalence of being bullied in Asian-American youth was about 5% in 2001 and 2003 and about 17–19% in 2005–2011. Compared with the youth of white, African American, Hispanic, and other races, Asian-American youth had the lowest prevalence of being bullied.

The probability of being bullied in Asian-American youth was not differed by gender or family income. However, Asian-American youth who received mostly Cs or worse were more likely to be bullied than their peers who received mostly As.

Prevalence

Impacts

Risk factors

Else et al. (2009)

9th–12th-grade Asian-American and Pacific Islander students from 2 high schools (n = 881); age not specified

Island of Oahu in HI, USA

Cross-sectional; survey

Eight sets of questions were used to ask the participants about their experiences in various forms of youth violence victimization. Among those, physical violence was similar to physical bullying; anger/emotional abuse was similar to verbal bullying; peer pressure was similar to social bullying.

Being a victim of physical violence, anger/emotional abuse, or peer pressure was all positively associated with suicidal ideation, planning for suicide, and suicide attempts.

Impacts

Hishinuma et al. (2015)

9th–12th-grade Asian-American and Pacific Islander students from 2 high schools (n = 881); age not specified

Island of Oahu in HI, USA

Cross-sectional; survey

Participants were asked to answer 18 questions to report whether they were victimized by physical violence or emotional violence (like verbal and social bullying) in the past month.

Violence victimization differed within Asian-American and Pacific Islander population. Samoan students were more likely to be physically victimized than Native Hawaiian and Japanese-American students.

Males were more likely to be physically victimized than females.

Prevalence

Risk factors

Koo et al. (2012)

10th-grade students from 580 public schools (n = 6,750); age not specified; white 83% and Asian American 17%; US native 91% and immigrant 9%

USA

Cross-sectional; survey: Education Longitudinal Study

Participants reported their experience in 4 forms of school victimization in the 2001–2002 academic year: “(a) someone threatened to hurt me at school, (b) someone bullied me or picked on me, (c) someone hit me, and (d) someone used strong-arm or forceful methods to get money or things from me.” (p. 134)

The probability of school victimization:

Asian Americans < whites

Asian-American males and females < white American males

Asian-American US-born males and females < white American males

Asian-American immigrant females > white American males

The interactions of race, gender, and immigration on the 4 forms of school victimization were also examined in this study.

Prevalence

Risk factors

Lessne and Yanez (2016)

6th–12th-grade students living in households (n = 2,317); age = 12–18 years

USA

Cross-sectional; survey: 2015 School Crime Supplement to the National Crime Victimization Survey

Participants reported their experience in 7 types of bullying during the school year. These types included physical, verbal, relational, and property bullying.

The prevalence of being bullied at school was 21.6% in white students, 24.7% in African-American students, 17.2% in Hispanic students, 15.6% in Asian students, and 25.9% in students of all other races.

Among those who reported being bullied, higher percentages of being bullied in a classroom and in a restroom or a locker room were found in Asian students than in any other racial groups. Higher percentages of Asians perceived race or ethnicity as the personal characteristic related to bullying compared with those of students with any other races. There were 33.4% Asian students notified an adult after being bullied, which was lower than the percentages of white (43.1%), African-American (45.4%), Hispanic (42.5%), and other racial students (45.6%).

Prevalence

Risk factors

Reporting

Menzer et al. (2010)

6th-grade students from 3 public middle schools (n = 521); age not specified; 400 European Americans, 121 East-Asian Americans

An east coast metropolitan area in the US

Cross-sectional/longitudinal; survey

Participants were asked to nominate up to 3 peers using corresponding items to categorize them into social withdrawal, aggression, victimization, or exclusion. Four proportions were calculated for each student. Items for victimization were “gets picked on, has mean things said to them, and hit by others.” (p. 294)

Among East-Asian-American boys and girls, victimization was associated with aggression and exclusion.

Among East-Asian-American students, regardless of gender, victimization was related to victimization 7 months later. East-Asian-American girls with extreme aggressive behaviors were more likely to be victimized later than their nonaggressive counterparts. This association did not exist in boys.

Impacts

Risk factors

Mouttapa et al. (2004)

6th-grade students from 16 schools (n = 1,368); mean age = 11.3 years; Hispanics 53.8%, Asians 22.8%, and other races 23.4%

Southern California, USA

Cross-sectional; survey

Participants reported their behaviors and victimization of physical and verbal bullying in the past 3 months. According to the scores, three dichotomized dependent variables were identified: being a bully, being a victim, and being an aggressive victim.

Asians were more likely to be bullying victims than students who were not Asians or Hispanics.

Asians were as likely as students of other races to be aggressive victims (being both a bully and a victim).

Prevalence

Peguero (2009)

Students from public schools (n = 8,383); age not specified; 5,626 whites, 1,628 Hispanics, and 1,129 Asian Americans

USA

Cross-sectional; survey: Education Longitudinal Study

Participants reported if they had experienced several types of victimization at school during the 2001–2002 academic year.

Violent victimization: “(1) Someone threatened to hurt me at school, (2) someone hit me, (3) someone used strong-arm or forceful methods to get money or things from me, and (4) someone bullied me or picked on me.” (p. 191)

Property victimization: “(1) I had something stolen from me at school and (2) someone purposely damaged or destroyed my belongings.” (p. 191)

The prevalence of violent victimization at school was about 42% in white students, which was greater than the prevalences in Asian-American (34%) and Hispanic (37%) students. The prevalence of property victimization was 43% in Asian Americans, which was similar to the prevalences in white and Hispanic students.

Among Asian Americans, the 1st- and 2nd-generation students were more likely to experience both violent and property victimization compared with the 3rd-plus generation students. Among Asian Americans, males were more likely to experience victimization. Students from family with better socioeconomic status were less likely to experience violent victimization. The achievement was not associated with victimization experience.

Prevalence

Risk factors

Peguero (2011)

10th-grade students from 580 public schools (n = 10,440); age not specified; 5,890 whites, 1,630 African Americans, 1,730 Hispanics, and 1,190 Asian Americans

USA

Longitudinal; survey: Education Longitudinal Study

Violence and victimization were identified using the same method as Peguero (2009) defining violent victimization except for omitting the (4) item.

Asian-American (30.3%), Hispanic (31.8%), and African-American (33.1%) students had a lower prevalence of violent victimization at school than white students (35.0%).

For white and Asian-American students, being violently victimized decreased the likelihood of later dropping out of schools. However, for Hispanic and African-American students, being violently victimized was positively associated with later dropping out of schools.

Prevalence

Impacts

Peguero et al. (2015)

Students from 580 public schools (n = 10,440); age not specified; 5,890 whites, 1,630 African Americans, 1,730 Hispanics, and 1,190 Asian Americans

USA

Cross-sectional; survey: Education Longitudinal Study

Same as Peguero (2009) except for omitting the (4) item under violent victimization

Asian-American students (29%) and Hispanic students (31%) had a lower prevalence of violent victimization at school than white students (35%). White, Asian-American, and Hispanic students had a similar prevalence of property victimization (about 42–44%), whereas African-American students (48%) had a higher prevalence of property victimization than white students.

Students who were more involved in academic extracurricular activities were more likely to be violently victimized for Asian Americans, African Americans, and Hispanics, not for whites. Students who were more involved in athletic extracurricular activities were more likely to be violently victimized for Asian Americans and Hispanics, whereas whites and African Americans had decreased risks. Students of all races/ethnicities who were more involved in misbehaviors at school were more likely to be violently victimized.

Participating in academic extracurricular activities, athletic extracurricular activities, and misbehaviors increased the probability of experiencing property victimization for all racial/ethnic groups.

Prevalence

Risk factors

Peguero and Williams (2013)

Students from public schools (n = 10,440); age not specified; 5,890 whites, 1,630 African Americans, 1,730 Hispanics, and 1,190 Asian Americans

USA

Cross-sectional; survey: Education Longitudinal Study

Bullying victimization was identified using the same method as Peguero (2009) defining violent victimization. Instead of dichotomizing the responses as having been bullied or not, this study used 0 = never, 1 = once or twice, and 2 = more than twice to compute a score ranging from 0 to 8.

White students experienced more bullying victimization than Asian-American, African-American, and Hispanic students.

African-American students and Hispanic students with better family socioeconomic status (SES) (break stereotypes) experienced more bullying victimization. Family SES was not related to being bullied for Asian-American and white students.

African-American and Asian-American students with better academic performance experienced more bullying, whereas white and Hispanic students with better academic performance experienced less bullying.

Hispanic and Asian-American students who were student-athletes experienced more bullying (break stereotypes), whereas white and African-American student-athletes experienced less bullying.

Prevalence

Risk factors

Pontes et al. (2018)

High school students (n = 61,042 in 4 waves of data for school bullying victimization; n = 43,728 in 3 waves of data for electronic bullying victimization); age not specified

USA

Cross-sectional/longitudinal; survey: 2009–2015 Youth Risk Behavior Survey

Participants reported whether they had experienced 2 types of bullying in the past year. Before the questions, the survey states the definition of bullying.

School bullying victimization: “During the past 12 months, have you ever been bullied on school property?” (p. 245)

Electronic bullying victimization: “During the past 12 months, have you ever been electronically bullied? (Include being bullied through email, chat rooms, instant messaging, Web sites, or texting).” (p. 245)

The prevalences of school bullying victimization and electronic bullying victimization were higher in white students (22.4% and 18.0%) than in Hispanic students (17.5% and 12.9%), Asian-American students (17.1% and 13.8%), and African-American students (12.8% and 8.7%).

Asian-American female students were less likely than white female students to be bullied at school or electronically bullied, whereas there was no difference for males.

Prevalence

Risk factors

Qin et al. (2008)

Chinese-American students from public schools (n = 120); mean age = 13 years; 88% were 1st-generation immigrants and 12% were 2nd-generation

Boston and New York City, USA

Cross-sectional; qualitative interviews

The study mainly focused on peer discrimination and harassment at school. The interviewees were asked about their peer relationships.

Chinese-American students experienced physical, verbal, and relational harassment at school.

Perceived reasons for peer discrimination and harassment included language barriers, immigration status, better academic performance, the perception of teachers’ favor to Chinese students, body size and strength, and insufficient group unity.

Prevalence

Risk factors

Rhee et al. (2017)

Adolescents who lived with parents or guardians (n = 2,367); mean age = 14.6 years; whites 48.7%, Hispanics 35.8%, Asians 11.1%, and African Americans 4.4%

CA, USA

Cross-sectional; survey: California Health Interview Survey

Participants were asked whether they had been threatened to hurt or hit them by peers at school during the last year.

The prevalence of being bullied was lower in Asians (6.5%) in comparison with whites (17.5%), Hispanics (15.2%), and African Americans (24.0%).

Among Asian Americans, the risk of bullying victimization differed by gender. Adolescents who perceived their community to be safer were less likely to be bullied.

Prevalence

Risk factors

Shea et al. (2016)

Parents (Asian (n = 9) or Hispanic (n = 6) immigrants) and teachers (n = 8) whose children or students bullied others, were bullied by others, or were bystanders in an elementary school

Southern California, USA

Cross-sectional; focus groups

Not specified; asked the informants to describe what they thought bullying was

Bullying that Asian and Hispanic immigrant students were involved in included physical, verbal, and relational bullying. Bullying was more prevalent in older students; boys involved more in physical bullying while girls involved more in relational bullying.

Students who were bullied experienced poor emotional and mental health. Some students refused to go to school.

Parents expected teachers and the principal to play an active role in bullying prevention. Teachers considered this expectation was due to acculturation or language barriers and specific culture that respected teachers.

Parents reported difficulties being a parent in the US due to language barriers and inconsistency of value with their kids.

With regard to responding, parents adopted more strategies that sought solutions to bullying problems, whereas teachers adopted more emotion-related strategies.

Parents and teachers believed bullying prevention programs for immigrants should involve parental education and participation, including communication and parenting skills.

Prevalence

Impacts

Risk factors

Coping strategies

Shin et al. (2011)

Korean-American high school students (n = 295); age = 13–19 years; US-born = 54.9%

NY and NJ, USA

Cross-sectional; survey

Participants completed a set of questions to determine whether they were bullies, victims, bystanders, or bully-victims in the last academic year.

The prevalence of being bullied was 29.2%; the prevalence of both being bullied and bullying others was 15.9%.

The top three environments of being bullied were after school, cafeteria, and cyberbullying. The top three reasons for being bullied were country of origin, being different, and appearance.

Students attending a school with lower multiethnicity (i.e., a higher percentage of white students) were more likely to be victims or bully-victims, which in turn increased their depression.

Prevalence

Impacts

Risk factors

Stone and Carlisle (2017)

6th–10th-grade students (n = 7,585); age ≤ 17 years; whites 40%, African Americans 15.6%, Hispanics 26.5%, Asians 3.3%, others 6.1%, and multirace 8.5%

USA

Cross-sectional; survey: Health Behavior in School-Aged Children Study

This study focused on racial bullying, which was bullying due to race or color. Based on their experiences in the last few months, participants were classified into victims, perpetrators, victim-perpetrators, and none.

Among Asian Americans, the prevalence of being racially bullied was 19.5%; the prevalence of both being racially bullied and racially bullying others was 3.3%.

Among Asian Americans, students who reported being racially bullied were more likely to use marijuana, but not alcohol and cigarette, in the past 30 days compared with their peers who were not involved in racial bullying.

Prevalence

Impacts

The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund and the Sikh Coalition (2013)

Asian-American students from public schools (n = 163); age not specified

New York City, USA

Cross-sectional; survey

Not specified

In 2012, there were 50% of Asian-American students reporting being bullied at school.

Prevalence

US Department of Education et al. (2016)

Asian-American and Pacific Islander students, parents, community members, and organizations

USA

Cross-sectional; listening sessions and survey

Not specified

Asian-American students experienced physical, verbal, and relational bullying. The verbal form was the most common, whereas the physical form was the least common.

Perceived reasons for being bullied included language issues, country of origin, immigrant status, stereotypes, religious affiliation, and appearance.

Factors impeding Asian students to report to schools after being bullied included language barriers, worries about confidentiality and stigma, and the perceptions of school staff not caring about or not being effective at dealing with bullying. Factors impeding reporting to parents included parents’ language barriers, not willing to bother them, not believing they would understand or effectively help, generational gaps, and deviation from the cultural norm which thinks highly of harmony.

This report introduced the Asian American and Pacific Islander Bullying Prevention Task Force.

Prevalence

Risk factors

Reporting

Coping strategies

Current efforts

Wang et al. (2016)

4th- and 5th-grade students from an elementary school (n = 313); age = 9–12 years; Asian Americans 54.3%, whites 7.3%, Hispanics 9.3%, Native Americans 1.6%, African Americans 4.2%, biracial 1.0%, and others 19.2%

Southern California, USA

Cross-sectional; survey

Bullying victimization was measured using two sets of questions. Three scores were calculated to, respectively, represent the frequency of being physically bullied, verbally/relationally bullied, and total bullying victimization.

The frequencies of being physically bullied, verbally/relationally bullied, or total bullying victimization were not different between Asian-Americans and non-Asian Americans.

Students who perceived that their school was with better student-teacher relationships and higher respect for diversity were less likely to report being bullied, especially for verbal/relational bullying victimization.

Perceived reasons for being bullied among Asian-American students included cultural discrepancy, language issues, appearance, stereotypes, personality, arguments in the past, and being unwelcomed.

Prevalence

Risk factors

Williams and Peguero (2013)

High school students (n = 9,590); age not specified; whites 55.99%, Hispanics 16.79%, African Americans 15.78%, and Asians 11.45%

USA

Longitudinal; survey: Education Longitudinal Study

Participants were asked three questions to report whether they had been bullied at school in the 2001–2002 school year: “(1) Has someone hit you? (2) Has someone bullied or picked on you? and (3) Has someone threatened to hurt you?” (p. 300)

The prevalences of bullying victimization in Asians (35%), African Americans (37%), and Hispanics (37%) were lower than the prevalence in white students (43%).

White, Hispanic, African-American, and Asian students experienced the same level of negative impact of bullying victimization on later grade point averages

Asian students with higher past grade point averages were less likely to be bullied.

Asian students with poorer grade point averages were as likely to experience bullying as white students with poorer grade point averages.

Prevalence

Impacts

Risk factors

Yeh et al. (2014)

Chinese immigrant students from a public high school (n = 286); age = 16–22 years

New York City, USA

Cross-sectional; survey

Participants were asked 15 questions to report their level of overt victimization (physical bullying) and relational victimization (verbal bullying) from peers.

Male students reported a higher level of overt victimization than female students.

Overt victimization and relational victimization were intercorrelated.

Overt victimization and relational victimization were positively associated with conflicts with family and poor connection with parents and were negatively associated with peer support, family support, student-teacher relationships, and school adaptation.

Overt victimization and relational victimization were positively related to students’ mental problems in terms of anxiety and depression.

Impacts

Risk factors

Prevalence of Bullying Victimization

Most of the included articles (20 out of 23; 87.0%) examined the prevalence of bullying victimization among Asian-American youth. The rates of being bullied among this population range from 5 to 50% (Asian American and Pacific Islander Boys and Men of Color Coalition Helping Achieve Racial and Gender Equity 2017; Cooc and Gee 2014; Lessne and Yanez 2016; Peguero 2009; Peguero 2011; Peguero et al. 2015; Pontes et al. 2018; Rhee et al. 2017; Shin et al. 2011; Stone and Carlisle 2017; The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund and the Sikh Coalition 2013; Williams and Peguero 2013). One study using national data in the United States to examine the trend of bullying victimization among Asian-American youth ages 12–18 found that the past 6-month bullying rates were about 5% in 2001 and 2003 and ranged from 17 to 19% during 2005 to 2011 (Cooc and Gee 2014).

Compared with whites, previous research indicates that Asian-American youth have a lower probability of being bullied (Cooc and Gee 2014; Koo et al. 2012; Peguero and Williams 2013; Pontes et al. 2018; Williams and Peguero 2013). Based on a pooled estimate using National Youth Risk Behavior Survey in the United States from 2009 to 2015, research indicates 17.1% of Asian-American high school students were victims of bullying at school in the past year, which was statistically lower than the percentage of white students (22.4%); 13.8% of Asian-American students report being electronically bullied in the past year, which was also lower than the percentage of white students (18.0%) (Pontes et al. 2018). Meanwhile, according to the same study, Asian-American female students report being less likely than white female students to be bullied at school or electronically bullied, whereas there was no difference between Asian-American males and white males (Pontes et al. 2018).

Similarly, compared with the youth of African American, Hispanic, and other races, Asian-American youth ages 12–18 had a lower probability of being bullied (Cooc and Gee 2014). Results from several studies support that Asian-American youth seem to have a lower prevalence of bullying victimization than youth of other minority populations do (Lessne and Yanez 2016; Williams and Peguero 2013; Rhee et al. 2017). A national survey in the United States found that a total of 15.6% of Asian-American students ages 12–18 reported being bullied during the school year, which was lower than the rates of African-American students (24.7%), Hispanic students (17.2%), and students of other races (25.9%) (Lessne and Yanez 2016). Another national study in the United States indicated that the prevalence of bullying victimization during the school year in Asian-American high school students (35%) was slightly lower than the prevalences of African-American students (37%) and Hispanic students (37%) (Williams and Peguero 2013). One local study in California showed a similar tendency (Rhee et al. 2017). Nonetheless, results from three other studies do not fully echo with the findings (Mouttapa et al. 2004; Pontes et al. 2018; Wang et al. 2016). The prevalence of school bullying victimization in the last year among Asian-American high school students (17.1%) was slightly lower than that in Hispanic students (17.5%) but higher than that in African-American students (12.8%) (Pontes et al. 2018). Fourth- and 5th-grade Asian-American students in Southern California did not significantly differ from their non-Asian counterparts on experiencing bullying victimization (Wang et al. 2016). Another study in Southern California indicated that 6th-grade Asian-American students were more likely to be a victim than their peers who were not Asians or Hispanics, whereas the two populations had the same probability of being both a bully and a victim (Mouttapa et al. 2004).

Previous qualitative research finds that Asian-American students experience physical, verbal, and relational harassment at school (Qin et al. 2008; Shea et al. 2016; U.S. Department of Education et al. 2016). Verbal bullying was the most common, whereas physical bullying was the least common (U.S. Department of Education et al. 2016). Interestingly, the experience of various forms of bullying victimization also differed by race/ethnicity. White students are more likely to be violently victimized at school than Asian-American students, Hispanic students, and African-American students are (Peguero 2009; Peguero 2011; Peguero et al. 2015). The prevalence of property victimization is similar in Asian-American students, white students, and Hispanic students (about 42–44%), whereas African-American students (48%) have a higher prevalence of property victimization than white students (Peguero 2009; Peguero et al. 2015). Moreover, the difference also existed within the Asian-American and Pacific Islander population; Samoan high school students were more likely to be physically victimized than Native Hawaiian and Japanese-American students (Hishinuma et al. 2015).

Regarding locations of bullying incidents, one study indicated that Asian-American students were more likely to be bullied in a classroom and in a restroom or a locker room than students of any other races/ethnicities were (Lessne and Yanez 2016). However, the top three contexts of being bullied among Korean-American high school students in New York and New Jersey in the United States were after school, cafeteria, and cyberbullying (Shin et al. 2011).

Impacts of Bullying Victimization

Bullying victimization may pose harm to physical and mental health, social relationships, and achievements in the general population (Copeland et al. 2013; Wolke et al. 2013). Several studies (9 out of 23 included articles in this review; 39.1%) focused on the negative impacts of being bullied among Asian-American youth. The following results present an overview of consequences associated with bullying victimization among Asian-American students.

Over half of the existing studies addressing the impacts of bullying victimization among Asian-American youth (5 out of 9; 55.6%) identified the impacts on mental health. For example, one qualitative study found that Asian-American elementary students who were bullied experienced emotional or mental issues (Shea et al. 2016). Physical victimization and relational victimization were positively related to mental problems in terms of anxiety and depression among Chinese immigrant high school students in New York City (Yeh et al. 2014). Similarly, Korean-American high school students who reported being bullying victims experienced a higher level of depression than their Korean-American peers who were not bullied (Shin et al. 2011). Furthermore, Asian-American high school students in Hawaii with victimization experience in physical violence, verbal bullying, or peer pressure at school were more likely to seriously consider suicide, plan for suicide, and attempt suicide than Asian-American students who did not experience victimization (Else et al. 2009). Regarding substance use, an increased likelihood of current marijuana use, but not alcohol and cigarette use, was found among Asian-American 6th–10th graders who reported being racially bullied compared with their Asian-American counterparts who were not racially bullied (Stone and Carlisle 2017). Nevertheless, due to the nature of the cross-sectional study design, it should be noted that these aforementioned associations may be bidirectional and need to be interpreted with caution.

Moreover, bullying victimization influences academic performance and experience at school. A cross-sectional study indicated that being bullied was related to poorer grades in Asian-American students; however, this relationship may also be bidirectional (Cooc and Gee 2014). One longitudinal study found that bullying victimization negatively affected Asian-American students’ later academic achievement in terms of their grade point average (Williams and Peguero 2013). Asian-American, white, Hispanic, and African-American students experienced the same level of negative impact of bullying victimization on later grade point average (Williams and Peguero 2013). In addition, another longitudinal study indicated that, for Asian-American and white students, being violently victimized decreased the likelihood of later dropping out of schools, whereas for Hispanic and African-American students, being violently victimized was positively associated with later dropping out of schools (Peguero 2011). The author hypothesizes that the discrepancy may be due to the fact that schools perceive white students, compared with Hispanic and African-American students, as less exposed to bullying victimization and thus offer greater attention and help. The author also suggests that despite the adverse relationship between victimization and dropping out, other detrimental impacts of victimization may exist and warrant studies for diverse Asian-American students. Nevertheless, on students’ perspective, one qualitative study found that some Asian-American students who were bullied refused to go to school (Shea et al. 2016). Lastly, in East-Asian-American students, victimization was related to victimization 7 months later (Menzer et al. 2010).

Risk Factors

Nearly 74% of the included articles (17 out of 23) examined and discussed risk factors for bullying victimization among Asian-American youth. Among the bullying victims, Asian-American students had a higher percentage of perceiving bullying as related to race or ethnic origin than students of other races/ethnicities (Lessne and Yanez 2016). Perceived reasons for experiencing bullying or peer discrimination in Asian-American youth included language issues, cultural differences, stereotypes, country of origin, immigrant generation, religious affiliation, appearance, academic performance, personality, being unwelcomed, nonconformity of gender stereotypes, arguments in the past, the perception of teachers’ favor to Asian students, and insufficient group unity (Qin et al. 2008; Shin et al. 2011; U.S. Department of Education et al. 2016; Wang et al. 2016).

Several factors are associated with the likelihood of being bullied among Asian-American youth. Individual, family, peer, school, and community factors are discussed below.

Individual Factors

Most of the included articles examining the gender difference of being bullied in Asian-American youth (6 out of 7; 85.7%) indicate that the risk of bullying victimization differs by gender (Hishinuma et al. 2015; Peguero 2009; Pontes et al. 2018; Rhee et al. 2017; Shea et al. 2016; Yeh et al. 2014). In general, only Peguero (2009) statistically examined the difference and indicates that Asian-American male students were more likely to experience victimization than Asian-American female students. However, the risk seems to differ between males and females based on types of bullying. Asian-American male students reported a higher rate of being bullied at school than Asian-American female students (male 17.4% vs. female 16.8%), whereas Asian-American female students reported a higher rate of being electronically bullied than Asian-American male students (male 12.1% vs. female 15.8%) (Pontes et al. 2018). Also, Asian-American male students are more likely to be physically victimized than their Asian-American female peers, whereas Asian-American female students involve more in relational bullying than their Asian-American male peers (Hishinuma et al. 2015; Shea et al. 2016; Yeh et al. 2014). Only one study stated that the probabilities of being bullied in Asian-American youth were the same in males and females (Cooc and Gee 2014). With regard to the influence of age, bullying was more prevalent among older Asian-American students within an elementary school (Shea et al. 2016). Limited research has been conducted that examines bullying victimization experience among Asian-American students based on age.

Immigrant statuses affect the likelihood of being bullied as well. Asian-American immigrant females were more likely to experience bullying incidents than white American males, whereas US-born Asian-American males and females were less likely to be bullied than white American males (Koo et al. 2012). Additionally, Asian-American first- and second-generation immigrants were at greater risks of both violent and property victimization compared with Asian-American third-plus generation immigrants (Peguero 2009).

The association between academic performance and victimization among Asian-American students is inconclusive. One study found no relationship between academic achievement and victimization in this population (Peguero 2009). Another study indicated that Asian-American students who received mostly Cs or worse were more likely to be bullied than their Asian-American peers who received mostly As (Cooc and Gee 2014). In contrast, the other study stated that better academic performance was a risk factor of bullying victimization among Asian-American students (Peguero and Williams 2013). However, it should be noted that the study design of the aforementioned studies is cross-sectional. The finding from a longitudinal study showed that Asian-American students with higher past grades were less likely to be bullied compared with Asian-American students with poorer past grades (Williams and Peguero 2013).

Asian-American, African-American, or Hispanic students who were more involved in academic extracurricular activities were more likely to be violently victimized, whereas the relationship between activity involvement and victimization was not found among white students (Peguero et al. 2015). Similarly, Asian-American students who are more involved in athletic extracurricular activities or in a sports team are at greater risks of being violently bullied than their Asian-American peers who are less involved, whereas being an athlete is a protective factor for white and African-American youth (Peguero and Williams 2013; Peguero et al. 2015). Researchers hypothesize the difference may result from the fact that high involvement in extracurricular activities among the Asian-American students deviates from their racial stereotypes (Peguero and Williams 2013; Peguero et al. 2015). Racial or ethnic stereotypes about Asians being inactive, shy, and intelligent may contribute to bullying (Asian American and Pacific Islander Boys and Men of Color Coalition Helping Achieve Racial and Gender Equity 2017). In addition, Asian-American students who were more involved in misbehaviors at school were more likely to be violently victimized compared with their Asian-American counterparts who were less involved (Peguero et al. 2015). Participating in academic extracurricular activities, athletic extracurricular activities, and misbehaviors increased the probability of experiencing property victimization among all racial groups (Peguero et al. 2015).

Family Factors

Four of the included studies addressed family factors. Conflicts with family, poor family support, and poor connection with parents were risk factors of being physically and verbally bullied for Asian-American youth (Yeh et al. 2014). Nevertheless, the association between family socioeconomic status and bullying victimization in this population remains inconsistent. While some research indicates that the probability of being bullied is not differed by family income or socioeconomic status, one study finds that better family socioeconomic status is a protective factor of violent victimization in Asian-American youth (Cooc and Gee 2014; Peguero 2009; Peguero and Williams 2013).

Peer Factors

Based on the inclusion criteria, two studies were found that addressed peer factors for bullying victimization among Asian-American youth. Bullying victimization may be influenced by social interaction with peers. Peer support was a protective factor of physical and verbal victimization in Asian-American youth (Yeh et al. 2014). Similarly, peers may also be a risk factor that increases the likelihood of victimization. One study examined the associations between victimization, aggression, exclusion, and social withdrawal between peers at school among East-Asian-American students (Menzer et al. 2010). Cross-sectionally, victimization was related to aggression and exclusion (Menzer et al. 2010). Longitudinally, victimization predicted victimization 7 months later; girls with extremely aggressive behaviors were more likely to be victimized later compared with nonaggressive girls (Menzer et al. 2010).

School and Community Factors

Three included studies discussed school and community factors among Asian-American youth. Higher quality student-teacher relationships and greater respect for diversity within campus were protective factors of bullying victimization among Asian-American youth, especially in verbal and relational bullying victimization (Wang et al. 2016). Similarly, Korean-American students attending a high school with lower multiethnicity (i.e., a higher proportion of white students) were more likely to experience bullying victimization in the last school year than their Korean-American peers who attended a school with high multiethnicity (Shin et al. 2011). Concerning community factors, perceiving the community to be safer was a protective factor of being bullied among Asian-American youth (Rhee et al. 2017).

Reporting on Bullying Incidents

There is limited research (3 out of 23 included articles; 13.0%) discussing reporting on bullying incidents among Asian-American youth. Among Asian-American students who were bullied, 33.4% of students notified an adult after bullying incidents, which was lower than the percentages of whites, African Americans, Hispanics, and students of other races (Lessne and Yanez 2016).

Several factors impeding Asian-American students to report bullying incidents to schools were discovered (U.S. Department of Education et al. 2016). The major barrier was limited English ability (U.S. Department of Education et al. 2016). An English learner student may not be able to access resources at school or effectively communicate with school staff. In addition to language issues, Asian-American students reported that school staff would not care about or be effective at dealing with bullying, especially when the event happened off-campus (U.S. Department of Education et al. 2016). Some worried about confidentiality and were afraid of stigma and retaliation due to reporting being bullied, which would worsen their experience (U.S. Department of Education et al. 2016). Surprisingly, some students thought that they might be supposed to endure a certain amount of offenses because of their race (U.S. Department of Education et al. 2016). Also, reasons Asian-American students did not want to tell parents about being bullied included the parents’ language barriers, not willing to bother them, not believing they would understand or effectively help, generational gaps, and deviation from cultural norm which thinks highly of harmony (U.S. Department of Education et al. 2016). From parental perspectives, one qualitative study revealed that Asian-American parents faced difficulties being a parent in the United States due to language barriers and inconsistency of values with their kids (Shea et al. 2016).

Coping Strategies of Parents, Teachers, and Schools

With regard to responding to bullying incidents, in general, Asian-American parents adopted more strategies that sought solutions to bullying problems, whereas teachers adopted more emotion-related strategies (Shea et al. 2016). The responses of school to reports of bullying incidents from Asian-American victims may be positive or negative (U.S. Department of Education et al. 2016). While some students indicated that school staff were supportive and monitored bullying, other students stated that no action or ineffective action was taken (U.S. Department of Education et al. 2016). Additionally, Asian-American parents sometimes did not know how to respond appropriately, especially for those who were born and raised in foreign countries (U.S. Department of Education et al. 2016). In some cases, parents reported the incidents to the school or asked the students to face the bullying themselves (U.S. Department of Education et al. 2016). Additionally, Asian-American parents expected teachers and the principal to play an active role in bullying prevention (Shea et al. 2016). Teachers considered that this expectation was due to acculturation difficulties, language barriers, and the culture of origin that respects teachers (Shea et al. 2016).

Current Efforts to Address Bullying Victimization

To date, based on this review, there are no bullying prevention interventions specifically designed for Asian-American youth. Current programs may need to be evaluated for effectiveness with Asian-American youth. Based on this review, it is likely that existing programs may simply need tailoring to ensure culturally relevant and appropriate components. In addition, a federal task force identified the primary goal as increasing public awareness of bullying and develop a greater understanding of bullying experience among Asian-American students (U.S. Department of Education et al. 2016).

Asian American and Pacific Islander Bullying Prevention Task Force

In 2014, the White House Initiative on Asian American and Pacific Islanders (WHIAAPI) partnering with Department of Justice, Department of Education, and Department of Health and Human Services launched the Asian American and Pacific Islander Bullying Prevention Task Force to address bullying issues among Asian-American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) students in the United States (U.S. Department of Education et al. 2016). The task force coordinates resources from these agencies and assists AAPI communities to deal with bullying. In order to further understand the experience of bullying among AAPI students, during 2014 to 2016, the task force hosted 29 listening sessions with AAPI students and conducted a survey on AAPI community organizations and advocacy groups. The results were published in a report in 2016, and several important findings are presented throughout this article (U.S. Department of Education et al. 2016).

Discussion

Bullying victimization among Asian-American youth is an overlooked public health and social issue. So far, there are relatively limited research and resources specifically for bullying prevention among this fast-growing population. Most of the existing studies adopted a cross-sectional design and have great variation in measurement that may result in findings that are inconsistent or not as reliable as needed for this topical area.

According to this review, 5–50% of Asian-American youth experience any type of bullying victimization (Asian American and Pacific Islander Boys and Men of Color Coalition Helping Achieve Racial and Gender Equity 2017; Cooc and Gee 2014; Lessne and Yanez 2016; Peguero 2009; Peguero 2011; Peguero et al. 2015; Pontes et al. 2018; Rhee et al. 2017; Shin et al. 2011; Stone and Carlisle 2017; The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund and the Sikh Coalition 2013; Williams and Peguero 2013). The discrepancies between studies may be due to different study locations, years of study, and characteristics of participants (e.g., age and grade level) (see Table 1). Measurement of bullying victimization may influence the prevalence as well. Cooc and Gee (2014) found that only about 5% of participants in 2001 and 2003 reported being bullied when they were asked whether they have been bullied along with a definition of bullying, whereas about 17–19% of participants in 2005–2011 reported being bullied when the survey used 7 questions to ask about the participants’ specific bullying experience. Additionally, Asian-American students tend to have a lower probability of experiencing bullying victimization than white students, African-American students, and Hispanic students (Cooc and Gee 2014; Koo et al. 2012; Peguero and Williams 2013; Pontes et al. 2018; Williams and Peguero 2013). Thus, it is imperative for researchers and others to employ culturally relevant and appropriate measurement tools to accurately determine the prevalence of bullying victimization among Asia-American youth. Furthermore, Asian-American immigrants who were born outside of the United States tend to have a greater probability of being bullied than white students; the first- and second-generation Asian-American immigrants are also at a greater risk of experiencing bullying than the third-plus generation (Koo et al. 2012; Peguero 2009). It is noteworthy that immigrant status plays a key role in whether an Asian-American student would experience bullying victimization. Compared with the third-plus generation, the first- and second-generation Asian-American immigrants may be vulnerable to language barriers, lack of social support, and acculturative stress, which may be potential risk factors of bullying victimization (Pottie et al. 2015; Peguero 2009; Qin et al. 2008; Wang et al. 2016). Future research is warranted to examine these factors and determine potential associations for Asian-American youth.

Being bullied is harmful to health, social interactions, and attainment in the general population (Copeland et al. 2013; Wolke et al. 2013). Findings from previous studies focusing on the impacts of bullying victimization among Asian-American youth showed a similar tendency. There is an association between being bullied and anxiety, depression, suicide ideation, suicide attempts, and marijuana use in Asian-American youth (Else et al. 2009; Shin et al. 2011; Stone and Carlisle 2017; Yeh et al. 2014). However, due to the nature of the cross-sectional study design, the relationships may be mutual and bidirectional, meaning students who are bullied may be more likely to develop mental disorders because of consistent distressed emotions or students who already have mental problems may be more likely to be bullied by peers probably because they behave differently. Besides, Asian-American students who report being bullied tend to have poorer grades and greater probability of being victimized later (Menzer et al. 2010; Peguero 2011; Williams and Peguero 2013). Students may be reluctant to go to school or feel distressed in the school environment (Shea et al. 2016). These negative impacts may further deteriorate achievement in adulthood among this population.

Factors related to bullying victimization in different social contexts among Asian-American youth are identified. Regarding individual characteristics, Asian-American male students experience more bullying victimization than Asian-American female students, especially in a physical form (Hishinuma et al. 2015; Peguero 2009; Pontes et al. 2018; Shea et al. 2016; Yeh et al. 2014). This finding partially echoes with the bullying rate in all population in the United States. Female students had a higher rate of bullying victimization than their male counterparts, whereas male students reported being bullied more in the physical form and threats to harm (Lessne and Yanez 2016). The research team assumed male students may involve more in fighting between peers than females and hence are more vulnerable to physical violence. Moreover, while the relationship between academic performance and bullying victimization among Asian-American youth remains inconclusive, previous studies indicate that Asian-American students who are more involved in extracurricular activities and misbehaviors at school are at greater risks of being violently bullied (Cooc and Gee 2014; Peguero 2009; Peguero et al. 2015; Peguero and Williams 2013; Williams and Peguero 2013). This may result from the racial stereotypes that Asians are supposed to be introverted and inactive (Asian American and Pacific Islander Boys and Men of Color Coalition Helping Achieve Racial and Gender Equity 2017; Peguero and Williams 2013; Peguero et al. 2015). When someone behaves differently from the stereotypes, he or she may be the target of bullying.

Poor relationships with family or peers are risk factors for being bullied in Asian-American youth (Menzer et al. 2010; Yeh et al. 2014). Students with scarce family support or peer support may struggle with social distress, especially for the immigrant population. Furthermore, school and community may be critical to bullying prevention; a safer community or school that respects diversity and minority populations is a protective factor of bullying victimization among Asian-American students (Rhee et al. 2017; Shin et al. 2011; Wang et al. 2016).

One important thing to consider for bullying prevention in this population is the fact that only about one third of Asian-American students who were bullied notified an adult after the incidents (Lessne and Yanez 2016). Factors that hinder victims from reporting include language barriers of the students or their parents, worries about stigma and confidentiality, perceptions that the school or the parents would not effectively help, and generation gaps between the students and parents (Shea et al. 2016; U.S. Department of Education et al. 2016). It seems that involvement and effective responses from school staff and parents are critical. Parents and teachers believed bullying prevention interventions for immigrants should involve parental education and participation, including communication and parenting skills (Shea et al. 2016). School staff and parents could play an active role in understanding and providing support and suggestions to reduce the harm of bullying.

Recommendations

Researchers and experts who work on bullying victimization prevention among Asian-American youth should keep in mind that Asian Americans is one population of great diversity in terms of countries of origin, languages, cultures, and attainment (Asian American and Pacific Islander Boys and Men of Color Coalition Helping Achieve Racial and Gender Equity 2017; U.S. Census Bureau 2018). When conducting a study or developing an intervention regarding bullying victimization for this population, it would be helpful to consider subgroups, such as 1st- or 2nd-generation immigrants, individuals from a specific country or culture, and individuals from a family with relatively low socioeconomic status.

The CDC in the United States suggests a four-step public health approach to prevent bullying (Gladden et al. 2014). The approach includes steps that examine the bullying problems, investigate risk and protective factors, develop bullying prevention interventions, and share the strategies. These steps may be a constructive model to help develop strategies for bullying prevention among Asian-American youth.

Monitor the Problem

The first step of the CDC’s public health approach is to monitor the bullying problems among Asian-American youth. It is recommended to collect longitudinal surveillance data regarding all types of bullying (National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine 2016). For now, nationwide epidemiological data on bullying problems among this population is limited. Understanding of the prevalence, forms, locations, timing, and the characteristics of the perpetrators and victims is warranted before developing effective interventions. Surveys and focus groups may be conducted in Asian communities to collect both quantitative and qualitative data. Additional studies are also needed to examine the short-term and long-term impacts of bullying victimization specific to this population, especially studies using a longitudinal study design. As noted, great differences between Asian ethnic subgroups exist. It would be beneficial to consider subgroups and present data accordingly.

Identify Risk and Protective Factors

The second step is to identify risk and protective factors for bullying victimization among this group. Research on contributing factors for Asian Americans’ bullying victimization is scarce. There is also a paucity of studies on protective factors related to bullying and victimization. Due to several inconsistent findings in previous research, future studies with a more rigorous study design identifying the risk factors and protective factors of bullying victimization among Asian-American youth are warranted. Governments, organizations, and academic institutions should put forth greater efforts to support and conduct relevant research. Again, research for distinct subgroups is encouraged.

Develop a Bullying Prevention Program

Developing and evaluating evidence-based bullying prevention interventions are encouraged (National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine 2016). It is crucial to encourage Asian-American students and decrease the barriers to report their bullying experience due to a lower percentage of Asian-American victims notifying an adult (Lessne and Yanez 2016). Since the biggest challenge is limited English ability, schools should hire or be prepared to access an interpreter when needed to reduce any linguistic barrier for students. Detecting warning signs for this population may stop bullying at an early stage or prevent bullying from escalating. It is important to involve parents and school staff in bullying prevention interventions for Asian Americans (Shea et al. 2016). Family bonds and cohesion were found to weaken the negative effects of violent victimization and discrimination among Asian-American adolescents (Juang and Alvarez 2010; Maffini et al. 2011). Furthermore, research indicates that classes with students who respect racial diversity have lower bullying incidents (Gage et al. 2014). Inclusiveness and respect for other races should be taught in classrooms. Also, a welcoming and supportive school environment in which language and cultural diversity matter may promote harmony between peers. In order to avoid language barriers and cultural differences, educational materials should be available in various languages and be culturally competent. The AAPI Task Force suggests that federal bullying prevention materials should be available in Arabic, Bengali, Burmese, Chinese (both traditional and simplified), Farsi, Gujarati, Hindi, Hmong, Japanese, Khmer/Cambodian, Korean, Laotian, Nepali, Punjabi, Tagalog, Thai, Tibetan, Urdu, and Vietnamese (U.S. Department of Education et al. 2016).

Share the Strategies

After prevention strategies are developed and the effectiveness is ascertained, the fourth step is to share the strategies for widespread adoption. With limited resources in preventing bullying for Asian Americans, a well-established program may benefit the entire population. Programs could be shared with Asian community-based organizations and advocacy groups. Again, the material of any program should be available in multiple languages and be culturally competent.

Limitations

Several limitations should be noted. First, the research team conducted a narrative review instead of a quantitative meta-analysis. Thus, quantitative measures could not be determined. Next, the included articles were studies that focused on Asian-American youth and were conducted in the United States. The findings may not be generalized to other immigrant populations in the US or Asians in other countries. Additionally, it is important to note the small number of studies involving Asian-American youth and bullying. Future studies are needed to further investigate bullying victimization among this population. Lastly, studies published before 1 January 2000 or after 31 May 2018 or in a language other than English were excluded from this review. Articles which were not in the databases the research team used could not be found. Findings from these studies may not be discussed in this review.

Conclusions

Asian-American youth are experiencing bullying victimization in the United States. A comprehensive investigation of bullying victimization among Asian Americans is critical to bullying prevention for immigrants in the country. Additional research and surveillance of bullying on a regular basis among this population are urgently warranted. Bullying prevention interventions that reduce language barriers and be culturally congruent for this group are needed.

Notes

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Ethical Approval

For this type of study, formal consent is not required. This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Health Promotion & Education ProgramUniversity of CincinnatiCincinnatiUSA
  2. 2.Health Promotion & Education Program and Center for Prevention ScienceUniversity of CincinnatiCincinnatiUSA

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