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Which Children are Frequently Victimized in US Elementary Schools? Population-Based Estimates


We analyzed a population-based cohort of 11,780 US children to identify risk and protective factors by kindergarten predictive of being frequently verbally, social, reputationally, or physically victimized during the upper elementary grades. We also stratified the analyses by biological sex. Kindergarten children displaying externalizing problem behaviors were at consistently higher risk of being frequently victimized during third–fifth grade (odds ratios [OR] for verbal = 1.82, social = 1.60, reputational = 1.85, physical = 1.67, and total = 1.93). Hispanic children (OR range = 0.51 to 0.68) and those from higher income families (OR range = 0.73 to 0.83) were less likely to experience victimization. Boys were more likely than girls to be physically victimized (OR = 1.38) but less likely to be verbally (OR = 0.83), socially (OR = .66), or reputationally (OR = 0.83) victimized or to experience total victimization (OR = .82). Other variables predictive of increased risks for frequent victimization included having a disability, experiencing cognitively stimulating parenting, and displaying lower academic achievement.

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Funding support provided by Penn State’s Center for Educational Disparities Research and an infrastructure grant to the Population Research Institute (P2CHD041025) from the National Institute for Child and Human Health and Development, National Institutes of Health.

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Correspondence to Paul L. Morgan.

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Morgan, P.L., Woods, A.D., Wang, Y. et al. Which Children are Frequently Victimized in US Elementary Schools? Population-Based Estimates. School Mental Health (2022).

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  • Bullying
  • Victimization
  • Elementary school
  • Risk factors
  • Behavior problems
  • Longitudinal