Public Health

Many Bullies Get Pushed Around At Home

A look at bullying among middle school and high school student points to problems at home.

Bullies, their victims and kids who were both bullies and victims were far more likely to have been hurt by a family member or to have seen family violence than peers who weren't involved in bullying, according to data from Massachusetts that were just published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

It's the first time statewide data have been collected on a wide range of factors related to bullying, the researchers say. The findings appear in the latest issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Bullies were about four times more likely to have been hurt by someone in their families than students who were neither bullies nor victims of bullying.

"These children are learning [violent behavior] in their families and behaving the same way in their social relationships with their peers," psychologist Elizabeth Englander, a professor at Bridgewater State University, told the Boston Globe.

The data also show that bullying is common. More than a quarter of middle school students surveyed said they had been bullied. For high schoolers, the figure was about 16 percent.

About 10 percent of those in middle school and 7 percent in high school said they had been both bullies and targets of bullies.

The information comes from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, which added questions about bullying to a health survey of students conducted every two years in the state. In 2009, when this survey was conducted, nearly 6,000 students responded. The CDC helped analyze the results.

The researchers concluded:

Bullying is a pervasive public health problem requiring comprehensive solutions. Evidence suggests that classroom prevention programs alone in the United States often are unsuccessful in changing bullying behaviors.

Last year NPR's Larry Abramson took a look at a Maryland middle school that has made "anti-bullying efforts into part of the school culture, rather than just the topic of an occasional assembly."

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