The UCLA researchers studied 192 students in two ethnically diverse, urban schools. In one school, 47 percent of the sixth graders reported being bullied on at least one of these days; at the other school, 46 percent reported being bullied at least once. The study, published March 25 in the March/April issue of the journal Child Development, found that the most common types of harassment were name-calling and physical aggression such as kicking and shoving.
"Bullying is a problem that large numbers of kids confront on a daily basis at school; it's not just an issue for the few unfortunate ones," said Jaana Juvonen, UCLA professor of psychology, chair of developmental psychology and co-author of the study. "We knew a small group gets picked on regularly, but we were surprised how many kids reported at least one incident. We didn't know how much bullying we would find over a few random days."
Bullying includes name-calling, making fun of others, spreading nasty rumors and physical aggression. Verbal harassment was more than twice as common as physical in the study. Bullying occurs in one form or another across ethnic groups and income brackets, Juvonen said.
"Our data show that children are emotionally affected on the days they get picked on, regardless of whether it's 'harmless' name-calling or joking around," Juvonen said. "The students who were beat up and those who were called names were equally bothered. Kids reported feeling humiliated, anxious or disliking school on days when they reported incidents, which shows there is no such thing as 'harmless' name-calling or an 'innocent' punch."