Identifying Children at Risk for Being Bullies in the United States

  • Rashmi Shetgiri
    Address correspondence to Rashmi Shetgiri, MD, Division of General Pediatrics, Department of Pediatrics, UT Southwestern Medical Center, 5323 Harry Hines Blvd, Dallas, TX 75390–9063.
    Division of General Pediatrics, Department of Pediatrics, UT Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, Tex

    Children's Medical Center, Dallas, Tex
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  • Hua Lin
    Division of General Pediatrics, Department of Pediatrics, UT Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, Tex
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  • Glenn Flores
    Division of General Pediatrics, Department of Pediatrics, UT Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, Tex

    Children's Medical Center, Dallas, Tex
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Published:September 17, 2012DOI:



      To identify risk factors associated with the greatest and lowest prevalence of bullying perpetration among U.S. children.


      Using the 2001–2002 Health Behavior in School-Aged Children, a nationally representative survey of U.S. children in 6th–10th grades, bivariate analyses were conducted to identify factors associated with any (once or twice or more), moderate (two to three times/month or more), and frequent (weekly or more) bullying. Stepwise multivariable analyses identified risk factors associated with bullying. Recursive partitioning analysis (RPA) identified risk factors which, in combination, identify students with the highest and lowest bullying prevalence.


      The prevalence of any bullying in the 13,710 students was 37.3%, moderate bullying was 12.6%, and frequent bullying was 6.6%. Characteristics associated with bullying were similar in the multivariable analyses and RPA clusters. In RPA, the highest prevalence of any bullying (67%) accrued in children with a combination of fighting and weapon-carrying. Students who carry weapons, smoke, and drink alcohol more than 5 to 6 days/week were at greatest risk for moderate bullying (61%). Those who carry weapons, smoke, have more than one alcoholic drink per day, have above-average academic performance, moderate/high family affluence, and feel irritable or bad-tempered daily were at greatest risk for frequent bullying (68%).


      Risk clusters for any, moderate, and frequent bullying differ. Children who fight and carry weapons are at greatest risk of any bullying. Weapon-carrying, smoking, and alcohol use are included in the greatest risk clusters for moderate and frequent bullying. Risk-group categories may be useful to providers in identifying children at the greatest risk for bullying and in targeting interventions.


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