Bullying is a form of youth violence and an adverse childhood experience (ACE). 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. Common types of bullying include:
- Physical such as hitting, kicking, and tripping
- Verbal including name-calling and teasing
- Relational/social such as spreading rumors and leaving out of the group
- Damage to property of the victim
Bullying can also occur through 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. Bullying negatively impacts all youth involved including those who are bullied, those who bully others, and those who witness bullying, known as bystanders.
- Bullying is common. About 1 in 5 high school students reported being bullied on school property and more than 1 in 6 high school students reported being bullied electronically in the last year.
- Some youth experience bullying more than others. Nearly 40% of high school students who identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual and about 33% of those who were not sure of their sexual identity experienced bullying at school or electronically in the last year, compared to 22% of heterosexual high school students. About 30% of female high school students experienced bullying at school or electronically in the last year, compared to about 19% of males. Nearly 29% of White high school students experienced bullying at school or electronically in the last year compared to about 19% of Hispanic and 18% of Black high school students.
- Bullying is a frequent discipline problem. Nearly 14% of public schools report that bullying is a discipline problem occurring daily or at least once a week.
- Reports of bullying are highest in middle schools (28%) followed by high schools (16%), combined schools (12%), and primary schools (9%).
- Reports of cyberbullying are highest in middle schools (33%) followed by high schools (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 misuse, 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 youths’ skills and modify the physical and social environment, 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, 2019. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report–Surveillance
Summaries 2020; 69(SS1). Available from https://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/data/yrbs/pdf/2019/su6901-H.pdfpdf icon
- 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. Retrieved from http://nces.ed.gov/pubsearchexternal icon.
- Farrington D, Baldry A. Individual risk factors for school 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.