Bullying is a serious public health issue among children and adolescents in the United States. Existing national data sources provide limited current information about involvement in bullying among youth. The purpose of this study was to estimate the prevalence of parent-reported bullying victimization and perpetration among U.S. children and adolescents ages 6–17 years using nationally representative data, and to examine health-related factors associated with bullying experiences. We conducted secondary data analysis of the 2016 National Survey of Children’s Health, and stratified the sample by age (6–11 years, 12–17 years). We performed bivariate analyses to examine prevalence of bullying experiences according to demographic characteristics, health conditions, health behaviors, health services, and family environment. Using multivariable logistic regressions, we assessed the association between these factors and bullying experiences. Results showed that 22.7% of U.S. children and adolescents were bullied by others and 6.4% bullied others. The rate of bullying victimization was slightly higher among 6–11 year olds than among 12–17 year olds (24.1 vs. 21.1%, p = 0.011). The rate of bullying perpetration was 7.2% among children and 5.6% among adolescents but the difference between age groups was not statistically significant (p = 0.086). Several health conditions and health services factors were associated with either bullying victimization or perpetration, including special health care needs, internalizing problems, behavior or conduct problems, speech or other language disorders, autism, and unmet need for mental health treatment or counseling. Bullying victimization was also strongly associated with bullying perpetration.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Baldry, A. C. (2003). Bullying in schools and exposure to domestic violence. Child Abuse & Neglect, 27, 713–732.
Baldry, A. C., Farrington, D. P., & Sorrentino, A. (2015). ‘Am I at risk of cyberbullying’? A narrative review and conceptual framework for research on risk of cyberbullying and cybervictimization: The risk and needs assessment approach. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 23, 36–51.
Bethell, C. D., Read, D., Stein, R. E., Blumberg, S. J., Wells, N., & Newacheck, P. W. (2002). Identifying children with special health care needs: Development and evaluation of a short screening instrument. Ambulatory Pediatrics, 2, 38–47.
Blake, J. J., Kim, E. S., Lund, E. M., Zhou, Q., Kwok, O. M., & Benz, M. R. (2016). Predictors of bully victimization in students with disabilities: A longitudinal examination using a national data set. Journal of Disability Policy Studies, 26(4), 199–208.
Blood, G. W., Blood, I. M., Tramontana, G. M., Sylvia, A. J., Boyle, M. P., & Motzko, G. R. (2011). Self-reported experience of bullying of students who stutter: Relations with life satisfaction, life orientation, and self-esteem. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 113, 353–364.
Burkhart, K. M., Knox, M., & Brockmyer, J. (2013). Pilot evaluation of the ACT raising safe kids program on children’s bullying behavior. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 22(7), 942–951.
Chang, F. C., Chiu, C. H., Miao, N. F., Chen, P. H., Lee, C. M., Huang, T. F., & Pan, Y. C. (2015). Online gaming and risks predict cyberbullying perpetration and victimization in adolescents. International Journal of Public Health, 60(2), 257–266.
Chen, L., Ho, S. S., & Lwin, M. O. (2017). A meta-analysis of factors predicting cyberbullying perpetration and victimization: From the social cognitive and media effects approach. New Media & Society, 19(8), 1194–1213.
Christensen, L. L., Fraynt, R. J., Neece, C. L., & Baker, B. L. (2012). Bullying adolescents with intellectual disability. Journal of Mental Health Research in Intellectual Disabilities, 5(1), 49–65.
Cook, C. R., Williams, K. R., Guerra, N. G., Kim, T. E., & Sadek, S. (2010). Predictors of bullying and victimization in childhood and adolescence: A meta-analytic investigation. School Psychology Quarterly, 25(2), 65.
Copeland, W. E., Wolke, D., Angold, A., & Costello, E. J. (2013). Adult psychiatric outcomes of bullying and being bullied by peers in childhood and adolescence. JAMA Psychiatry, 70(4), 419–426.
Cunningham, T., Hoy, K., & Shannon, C. (2016). Does childhood bullying lead to the development of psychotic symptoms? A meta-analysis and review of prospective studies. Psychosis, 8(1), 48–59.
David-Ferdon, C., & Hertz, M. F. (2009). Electronic media and youth violence: A CDC issue brief for researchers.. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/ViolencePrevention/pdf/Electronic_Aggression_Researcher_Brief-a.pdf.
Dawkins, J. L. (1996). Bullying, physical disability and the paediatric patient. Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology, 38(7), 603–612.
Espelage, D. L., & Holt, M. K. (2013). Suicidal ideation and school bullying experiences after controlling for depression and delinquency. Journal of Adolescent Health, 53(1), S27–S31.
Espelage, D. L., & Swearer, S. M. (2010). A social-ecological model for bullying prevention and intervention: Understanding the impact of adults in the social ecology of youngsters. In S. R. Jimerson, S. M. Swearer & D. L. Espelage (Eds.), Handbook of bullying in schools: An international perspective (pp. 61–72). New York: Routledge.
Fekkes, M., Pijpers, F. I., Fredriks, A. M., Vogels, T., & Verloove-Vanhorick, S. P. (2006). Do bullied children get ill, or do ill children get bullied? A prospective cohort study on the relationship between bullying and health-related symptoms. Pediatrics, 117(5), 1568–1574.
Finkelhor, D., Turner, H. A., Shattuck, A., & Hamby, S. L. (2015). Prevalence of childhood exposure to violence, crime, and abuse: Results from the National Survey of Children’s Exposure to Violence. JAMA Pediatrics, 169(8), 746–754.
Flouri, E., & Buchanan, A. (2003). The role of mother involvement and father involvement in adolescent bullying behavior. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 18(6), 634–644.
Forster, M., Gower, A. L., McMorris, B. J., & Borowsky, I. W. (2017). Adverse Childhood Experiences and School-Based Victimization and Perpetration. Journal of Interpersonal Violence. https://doi.org/10.1177/00886260517689885.
Garmy, P., Vilhjalmsson, R., & Kristjánsdóttir, G. (2017). Bullying in school-aged children in Iceland: a cross-sectional study. Journal of Pediatric Nursing. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pedn2017.05.009.
Gini, G., & Pozzoli, T. (2009). Association between bullying and psychosomatic problems: A meta-analysis. Pediatrics, 123(3), 1059–1065.
Gini, G., & Pozzoli, T. (2013). Bullied children and psychosomatic problems: a meta-analysis. Pediatrics, 132(4), 720–729.
Gladden, R. M., Vivolo-Kantor, A. M., Hamburger, M. E., & Lumpkin, C. D. (2014). Bullying surveillance among youths: Uniform definitions for public health and recommended data elements, version 1.0. Atlanta: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Goodman, K. L., De Los Reyes, A., & Bradshaw, C. P. (2010). Understanding and using informants’ reporting discrepancies of youth victimization: A conceptual model and recommendations for research. Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review, 13(4), 366–383.
Guo, S. (2016). A meta‐analysis of the predictors of cyberbullying perpetration and victimization. Psychology in the Schools, 53(4), 432–453.
Health Resources and Services Administration, Maternal and Child Health Bureau. (2017). 2016 National Survey of Children’s Health: Frequently Asked Questions. https://mchb.hrsa.gov/data/national-surveys/data-user.
Herge, W. M., La Greca, A. M., & Chan, S. F. (2016). Adolescent peer victimization and physical health problems. Journal of Pediatric Psychology, 41(1), 15–27.
Iannotti, R. J. (2013). Health Behavior in School-Aged Children (HBSC), 2009-2010. ICPSR34792-v1. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research. Available from: 10.3886/ICPSR34792.v1.
Kann, L., McManus, T., Harris, W. A., Shanklin, S. L., Flint, K. H., & Hawkins, J., et al. (2016). Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance: United States, 2015. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report Surveillance Summaries, 65(6), 1–174.
Kim, Y. S., Koh, Y. J., & Leventhal, B. L. (2004). Prevalence of school bullying in Korean middle school students. Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, 158(8), 737–741.
Kowalski, R. M., & Limber, S. P. (2013). Psychological, physical, and academic correlates of cyberbullying and traditional bullying. Journal of Adolescent Health, 53, S13–S20.
Lereya, S. T., Copeland, W. E., Costello, E. J., & Wolke, D. (2015). Adult mental health consequences of peer bullying and maltreatment in childhood: two cohorts in two countries. The Lancet Psychiatry, 2(6), 524–531.
Luxenberg, H., Limber, S. P., & Olweus, D. (2015). Bullying in U.S. schools: 2014 status report. Center City, MN: Hazelden Publishing.
Musu-Gillette, L., Zhang, A., Wang, K., Zhang, J., & Oudekerk, B. A. (2017). Indicators of school crime and safety: 2016 (NCES 2017-064/NCJ 250650). Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Department of Education, and Bureau of Justice Statistics, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice.
National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. (2016). Preventing bullying through science, policy, and practice.. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
Olweus, D. (1993). Bullying at school: What we know and what can we do. Malden, MA: Blackwell.
Paruthi, S., Brooks, L. J., D’Ambrosio, C., Hall, W. A., Kotagal, S., & Lloyd, R. M., et al. (2016). Recommended amount of sleep for pediatric populations: A consensus statement of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Journal of Clinical Sleeping Medicine, 12, 785–786.
Reijntjes, A., Kamphuis, J. H., Prinzie, P., & Telch, M. J. (2010). Peer victimization and internalizing problems in children: A meta-analysis of longitudinal studies. Child Abuse & Neglect, 34(4), 244–252.
Rose, C. A., Espelage, D. L., Aragon, S. R., & Elliott, J. (2011a). Bullying and victimization among students in special education and general education curricula. Exceptionality Education International, 21(3), 2–14.
Rose, C. A., Monda-Amaya, L. E., & Espelage, D. L. (2011b). Bullying perpetration and victimization in special education: A review of the literature. Remedial and Special Education, 32(2), 114–130.
Sourander, A., Helstelä, L., Helenius, H., & Piha, J. (2000). Persistence of bullying from childhood to adolescence—A longitudinal 8-year follow-up study. Child Abuse & Neglect, 24(7), 873–881.
Swearer, S. M., Wang, C., Maag, J. W., Siebecker, A. B., & Frerichs, L. J. (2012). Understanding the bullying dynamic among students in special and general education. Journal of School Psychology, 50(4), 503–520.
U.N. General Assembly (2016). Protecting children from bullying: Report of the Secretary General, A/71/213 (July26, 2016). www.undocs.org.
U.N. Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children. (2016). Ending the torment: Tackling bullying from the schoolyard to cyberspace. New York: United Nations.
van Cleave, J., & Davis, M. M. (2005). Bullying and peer victimization among children with special health care needs. Pediatrics, 118, e1212–e1219.
van Geel, M., Vedder, P., & Tanilon, J. (2014). Relationship between peer victimization, cyberbullying, and suicide in children and adolescents: A meta-analysis. JAMA Pediatrics, 168(5), 435–442.
Wolke, D., Lereya, S. T., Fisher, H. L., Lewis, G., & Zammit, S. (2014). Bullying in elementary school and psychotic experiences at 18 years: a longitudinal, population-based cohort study. Psychological Medicine, 44(10), 2199–2211.
Yang, A., & Salmivalli, C. (2013). Different forms of bullying and victimization: Bully-victims versus bullies and victims. European Journal of Developmental Psychology, 10(6), 723–738.
Zeedyk, S. M., Rodriguez, G., Tipton, L. A., Baker, B. L., & Blacher, J. (2014). Bullying of youth with autism spectrum disorder, intellectual disability, or typical development: victim and parent perspectives. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 8(9), 1173–1183.
L.L.H. designed and executed the study, conducted data analysis, and wrote the methods. L.S. collaborated with the design of the study and wrote the results. S.L. collaborated with the design of the study and wrote the introduction. B.M. collaborated with the design of the study and wrote the discussion. E.E. collaborated with the design of the study and edited the manuscript.
Conflict of Interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
About this article
Cite this article
Lebrun-Harris, L.A., Sherman, L.J., Limber, S.P. et al. Bullying Victimization and Perpetration among U.S. Children and Adolescents: 2016 National Survey of Children’s Health. J Child Fam Stud 28, 2543–2557 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-018-1170-9
- Health surveys
- United States