Bullying is a form of youth violence. CDC defines bullying as any unwanted aggressive behavior(s) by another youth or group of youths, who are not siblings or current dating partners, that involves an observed or perceived power imbalance and is repeated multiple times or is highly likely to be repeated. Bullying may inflict harm or distress on the targeted youth including physical, psychological, social, or educational harm.
As a form of childhood adversity, bullying can include aggression that is physical (hitting, tripping), verbal (name calling, teasing), or relational/social (spreading rumors, leaving out of group). Bullying can also occur through the use of technology, which is called electronic bullying or cyberbullying. A young person can be a perpetrator, a victim, or both (also known as “bully/victim”). For more information about bullying definitions please see Bullying Surveillance Among Youths: Uniform Definitions for Public Health and Recommended Data Elements, Version 1 pdf icon[8.64 MB, 116 Pages, 508].
Bullying is widespread in the United States. While the magnitude and types of bullying can vary across communities and demographic groups, bullying negatively impacts all youth involved—those who are bullied, those who bully others, and those who witness bullying (bystanders).
- Bullying is common. 1 in 5 high school students reported being bullied on school property in the last year.
- Bullying is frequent. Bullying is among the most commonly reported discipline problems in public schools. Nearly 14% of public schools report that bullying happens at least once a week. Reports of bullying are highest for middle schools (28%) followed by high schools (16%), combined schools (12%), and primary schools (9%).
- Bullying can happen online. Reports of cyberbullying among public school attending students are highest for middle school (33%), followed by high school (30%), combined schools (20%) and primary schools (5%).
Bullying can result in physical injury, social and emotional distress, self-harm, and even death. It also increases the risk for depression, anxiety, sleep difficulties, lower academic achievement, and dropping out of school. Youth who bully others are at increased risk for substance use, academic problems, and experiencing violence later in adolescence and adulthood. Youth who bully others and are bullied themselves suffer the most serious consequences and are at greater risk for mental health and behavioral problems.
The good news is that bullying is preventable. CDC’s technical package, A Comprehensive Technical Package for the Prevention of Youth Violence and Associated Risk Behaviors pdf icon[4.09 MB, 64 Pages, 508] helps communities and states prioritize youth violence prevention strategies based on the best available evidence. Cdc-pdfpdf iconAlso available in Spanish pdf icon[3.89 MB, 68 Pages, 508].
The strategies and approaches in the technical package are intended to impact individual behaviors as well as the relationship, family, school, community, and societal factors that influence risk and protective factors for violence. The strategies are meant to work together and be used in combination to prevent violence. These approaches, particularly universal school-based programs that strengthen youth’s skills and modifying physical and social environments for youth’s protection, have been shown to reduce violence and bullying.
See Youth Violence Resources for articles, publications, data sources, and prevention resources for bullying.
- Gladden RM, Vivolo-Kantor AM, Hamburger ME, Lumpkin CD. Bullying surveillance among youths: Uniform definitions for public health and recommended data elements, Version 1.0. Atlanta, GA; National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and U.S. Department of Education; 2013. Available from https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/bullying-definitionsfinal-a.pdf.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Youth risk behavior surveillance—United States, 2017. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report–Surveillance
Summaries 2018; 67(SS08.. Available from https://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/data/yrbs/pdf/2017/ss6708.pdf.
- Diliberti, M., Jackson, M., Correa, S., and Padgett, Z. (2019). Crime, Violence, Discipline, and Safety in U.S. Public Schools: Findings From the School Survey on Crime and Safety: 2017–18 (NCES 2019-061). U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics. Available from http://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch.
- Farrington D, Baldry A. Individual risk factors forschool bullying. Journal of Aggression, Conflict and Peace Research 2010; 2(1):4-16. Available from https://doi.org/10.5042/jacpr.2010.0001.
- David-Ferdon C, Vivolo-Kantor AM, Dahlberg LL, Marshall KJ, Rainford N, Hall JE. A Comprehensive Technical Package for the Prevention of Youth Violence and Associated Risk Behaviors. Atlanta, GA: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2016. Available from https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/yv-technicalpackage.pdf.