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Research Brief: Low Socioeconomic Status Contributes to Bullying Risk

At the third Federal Partners in Bullying Prevention Summit, attendees asked for ways to easily access and understand the latest research on bullying. In an effort to respond to this request, the StopBullying.gov blog will from time-to-time feature briefs of recent research reports published in some of the top-tier research journals.

Many factors place students at risk for being bullied. Research published in the American Journal of Public Health finds that kids and teens from poor families are more likely to be bullied than others. The study, which surveyed over 160,000 students from nearly 6,000 schools in Europe and North America, also concluded that schools with the largest economic inequality (or a big difference between how wealthy some families are and how poor other families are) had the highest rates of bullying. Exposure to bullying did not vary based on the overall wealth or poverty of a given country. But, following the patterns seen in schools, countries with the highest disparity of wealth had the highest rates of bullying. The authors argue that these variations between countries and schools show that bullying is not a natural adolescent behavior, but a reflection of social context. Therefore, the social context needs to be taken into account when planning prevention and intervention strategies. It is important to note that although socioeconomic status and disparity explained some variation in bullying rates between schools and countries, it did not account for all of it. The authors argue that factors such as legal protections for children and differences in disciplinary measures may also play a role.

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