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Health-related Risks for Involvement in Bullying among Middle and High School Youth

Abstract

Rates of victimization and bullying perpetration may vary by adolescents’ health status. The purpose of this study was to examine risk for bullying and victimization while considering multiple health conditions and health-related behaviors. Self-reported data were collected from 64,670 youth (50.3% female; 48.8% White; 25.7% Black/African American) enrolled at 107 middle and high schools across the state of Maryland. Two-level logistic regressions examined the association between health conditions and other health-related behaviors (i.e., physical activity, asthma, healthy eating, sleep troubles, obesity, and being overweight) and bullying. Results indicated that obese youth had higher odds of being a victim or bully-victim. Youth with asthma were more likely to be victimized, both in-person and online, and were more likely to be cyberbully-victims. Sleep difficulties were consistently associated with involvement in bullying, having higher odds of being a victim or bully-victim in-person and online as well as higher odds of perpetration of bullying. In contrast, healthy food consumption was associated with significantly lower odds of bullying perpetration, and physical activity was associated with significantly lower odds of being a bully-victim. Taken together, the findings suggest that various conditions and health-related behaviors may be important risk factors for both bullying victimization and perpetration.

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Authors Contributions

T.W. conceptualized and ran the analyses and led the writing of the manuscript; K.M. co-wrote manuscript and provided edits; A.M. assisted with CDC weight categorization, writing, and editing the manuscript; C.B. conceived and supervised the study, assisted in writing and editing the manuscript, and was the PI on the grants supporting this work.

Funding

This work was funded in part by grants from the U.S. Department of Education and William T. Grant Foundation, and the National Institute of Justice awarded to the last author Catherine P. Bradshaw.

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Correspondence to Tracy E. Waasdorp.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of The Institutional Review Board at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the University of Virginia; we complied with the APA ethical standards, and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments.

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A waiver of active parental consent process was used in the administration of the survey that the data is drawn from and all student participation was voluntary.

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Waasdorp, T.E., Mehari, K.R., Milam, A.J. et al. Health-related Risks for Involvement in Bullying among Middle and High School Youth. J Child Fam Stud 28, 2606–2617 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-018-1260-8

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Keywords

  • Health risks
  • Bullying
  • Cyber bullying
  • Victimization
  • Cyber victimization