International Journal of Public Health

, Volume 58, Issue 2, pp 237–245 | Cite as

School bullying, homicide and income inequality: a cross-national pooled time series analysis

  • Frank J. ElgarEmail author
  • Kate E. Pickett
  • William Pickett
  • Wendy Craig
  • Michal Molcho
  • Klaus Hurrelmann
  • Michela Lenzi
Original Article



To examine the relation between income inequality and school bullying (perpetration, victimisation and bully/victims) and explore whether the relation is attributable to international differences in violent crime.


Between 1994 and 2006, the Health Behaviour in School-aged Children study surveyed 117 nationally representative samples of adolescents about their involvement in school bullying over the previous 2 months. Country prevalence rates of bullying were matched to data on income inequality and homicides.


With time and country differences held constant, income inequality positively related to the prevalence of bullying others at least twice (b = 0.25), victimisation by bullying at least twice (b = 0.29) and both bullied and victimisation at least twice (b = 0.40). The relation between income inequality and victimisation was partially mediated by country differences in homicides.


Understanding the social determinants of school bullying facilitates anti-bullying policy by identifying groups at risk and exposing its cultural and economic influences. This study found that cross-national differences in income inequality related to the prevalence of school bullying in most age and gender groups due, in part, to a social milieu of interpersonal violence.


Bullying Adolescents Social conditions Income inequality HBSC Pooled time-series analysis 



The HBSC is a cross-national collaborative study of the World Health Organisation Regional Office for Europe and is funded by each of its member countries. Currently, the International Coordinator is Candace Currie, St. Andrews University, Scotland, and Data Bank Manager is Oddrun Samdal, University of Bergen, Norway. The countries involved in this analysis (current responsible principal investigator) were: Austria (R Felder-Puig), Belgium (D Piette, C Vereecken), Bulgaria (L Vasileva), Canada (W Pickett, J Freeman), Croatia (M Kuzman), Czech Republic (M Kalman), Denmark (P Due) Estonia (K Aasvee), Finland (J Tynjälä), France (E Godeau), Germany (P Kolip), Greece (A Kokkevi), Hungary (Á Németh), Iceland (T Bjarnason), Ireland (S Nic Gabhainn), Israel (Y Harel-Fisch), Italy (F Cavallo), Latvia (I Pudule), Lithuania (A Zaborskis), Luxembourg (Y Wagener), Malta (M Massa), the Netherlands (W Vollebergh), Norway (O Samdal), Poland (J Mazur), Portugal (M Gaspar de Matos), Romania (A Baban), Russia (team member A Malinin), Slovakia (A Madarasova Geckova), Slovenia (H Jericek), Spain (C Moreno), Sweden (L Eriksson), Switzerland (E Kuntsche), Turkey (O Ercan), Ukraine (O Balakireva), TFYR Macedonia (L Kostarova Unkovska), the UK (England [A Morgan], Scotland [C Currie], Wales [C Roberts]) and the USA (R Iannotti). The preparation of this article was funded in part by a grant to the first author from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.


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Copyright information

© Swiss School of Public Health 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Frank J. Elgar
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Kate E. Pickett
    • 3
  • William Pickett
    • 4
    • 5
  • Wendy Craig
    • 6
  • Michal Molcho
    • 7
  • Klaus Hurrelmann
    • 8
  • Michela Lenzi
    • 9
  1. 1.Institute for Health and Social PolicyMcGill UniversityMontrealCanada
  2. 2.Douglas Mental Health Research InstituteMontrealCanada
  3. 3.Department of Health SciencesUniversity of YorkYorkUK
  4. 4.Department of Emergency MedicineQueen’s UniversityKingstonCanada
  5. 5.Department of Community Health and EpidemiologyQueen’s UniversityKingstonCanada
  6. 6.Department of PsychologyQueen’s UniversityKingstonCanada
  7. 7.Department of Health PromotionNational University of IrelandGalwayIreland
  8. 8.Bielefeld University and Hertie School of GovernanceBerlinGermany
  9. 9.Department of Developmental and Social PsychologyUniversity of PadovaPaduaItaly

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