Bullying in schools pervasive, UCLA study finds

More than one in five 12-year-olds are repeatedly either bullies, victims or both, and bullies are often popular and viewed by classmates as the "coolest" in their classes, according to new UCLA research from the most comprehensive study on young adolescent bullying in an ethnically diverse, large urban setting.

Bullies, seven percent of the students, are psychologically strong.

"Bullies are popular and respected: they are considered the 'cool' kids," said Jaana Juvonen, UCLA professor of psychology, and lead author of "Bullying Among Young Adolescents: The Strong, the Weak and the Troubled," published in the December issue of the journal Pediatrics. "They don't show signs of depression or social anxiety and they don't feel lonely.

"We hope that these findings help us dispel the myth that bullies suffer from low self?esteem," Juvonen said. "Our data indicate that bullies do not need ego boosters. Unfortunately, this myth is still guiding many programs conducted in schools. Instead, we should be concerned about the popularity of bullies and how to change the peer culture that encourages bullying."

Depression, social anxiety and loneliness are common among victims of bullies, who are nine percent of the students in the UCLA study.

"Young teens who are victims of bullying are often emotionally distressed and socially marginalized," said Juvonen, who also works as a consultant to Los Angeles elementary schools on developing anti-bullying programs. "Many of the victims are disengaged in school.

"Victims are reluctant to talk about their plight," she said. They suffer is silence and often blame themselves. This is one of our challenges for intervention: We need to provide students with educational settings in which they feel comfortable talking about their plight. But we also need to give kids tools to effectively deal with bullying. One method of doing so involves engaging students to talk about strate

Contact: Stuart Wolpert
University of California - Los Angeles

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