Publication Date:

Aug 23, 2016

Trends in bullying

119_fig1Data from the National Survey of Children’s Exposure to Violence (NatSCEV) are available for 2008, 2011, and 2014. There were no significant changes in any type of bullying over these years. (Figure 1) Other trend data from the National Center for Education Statistics show that, while bullying at school was generally steady between 2005 and 2011, it was much lower in 2013. Twenty-two percent of students, ages 12 through 18, reported being bullied at school in 2013, compared with 28 percent in 2005, 2009, and 2011. Due to changes in the questionnaire, comparable earlier data are not available.

Differences by Gender

119_fig1In 2014, males and females were equally likely to experience physical intimidation (e.g., being hit, slapped, or pushed), at 13 and 12 percent, respectively, as well as Internet or cell phone harassment (5 and 4 percent, respectively), within the past year. Females were more likely to be the targets of relational aggression (teasing or emotional bullying, 38 versus 33 percent, in the past year). (Figure 2)  However, in terms of lifetime exposure, females were more likely than males to have experienced all types of bullying.  (Appendix 1)

Differences by Age

119_fig2The risk for bullying peaks at different ages for different types of bullying. In 2014, physical intimidation was most commonly reported by children under 10 years: its prevalence was 19 percent among children ages two to five, and 18 percent among children ages six to nine, compared with 9 percent among children ages 10 to 13, and 5 percent among children ages 14 to 17. Relational aggression peaks later, with 23 percent of children ages two to five reporting it in the past year, compared with 33 percent of children ages six to nine, 48 percent of children ages 10 to 13, and 39 percent of youth 14 to 17. Internet and cell phone harassment was most common at ages 14-17 (nine percent, compared with less than five percent among younger children). (Figure 3) 

Differences by Race and Hispanic Origin[1]

During the 2013 school year, 24 percent of white students ages 12 to 18 were bullied at school or cyber-bullied anywhere. That is higher than the proportion among Hispanic students (19 percent), or Asian students (9 percent). Twenty percent of black students were bullied at school or cyber-bullied anywhere, a proportion which is higher than that among Asian students but similar to those for white and Hispanic students.[2]

Other Estimates

State and Local Estimates

State-level estimates of the proportion of children ages 6 to 17 who bullied peers in the past month (as reported by parents) are available from the Data Resource Center for Child and Adolescent Health.

International Estimates

According to a study including 25 countries, involvement in bullying varies widely across nations, ranging from nine to 54 percent. The share of children who identified themselves as victims ranged from 5 to 20 percent, by country, with an average of 11 percent. The proportion identifying themselves as bullies ranged from 3 to 20 percent, with an average of 10 percent. Those classifying themselves as both bullies and victims ranged from 1 to 20 percent, with an average of six percent.[3]

Another study, Health Behavior in School-Aged Children, reports on bullies and bully victims in 39 countries by the following categories: age, gender, geography, and family affluence. (see page 191)

Data and Appendices

Data Sources

Data for 2014: Finkelhor, D., Turner, H. A., Shattuck, A., & Hamby, S. L. (2015) Prevalence of childhood exposure to violence, crime, and abuse: Results from the national survey of children’s exposure to violence. JAMA Pediatric, 169(8), 746-754.

Data for 2011: Finkelhor, D., Turner, H. A., Shattuck, A., & Hamby, S. L. (2013). Violence, crime, and abuse exposure in a national sample of children and youth: An update. JAMA Pediatrics, 167(7), 614-621.

Data for 2008: Finkelhor, D., Turner, H., Ormrod, R., Hamby, S., & Kracke, K. (2009) Children’s exposure to violence: A comprehensive national Survey. U.S. Department of Justice. Retrieved from

Raw Data Source

National Survey of Children’s Exposure to Violence.


Appendix 1 – Percentage of Children (ages 2-17) who are Bullying Victims, by Type of Bullying, Gender, and Age-Group: 2008, 2011, and 2014



According to the NatSCEV research team, physical intimidation is defined as when “a peer picked on [a] child (for example, by chasing, grabbing hair or clothes, or making [a] child do something he or she did not want to do). Relational aggression includes teasing or emotional bullying—when a child was scared or made to feel really bad because he or she was harassed by a peer for example, by name calling, having mean things said, or being told that he or she was unwelcome, as well as peers’ telling lies or spreading rumors about the child, trying to make others dislike the child, keeping the child out of things on purpose, excluding the child from their group of friends, or completely ignoring the child. Cell phone or Internet harassment is defined as when someone used the Internet or a cell phone to bother or harass a child (including posting messages or pictures).[4]

Data come from telephone interviews conducted with a randomly selected child in the household, or if the selected child was younger than 10, with the adult caregiver “most familiar with the child’s daily routines and experiences.”


[1]Hispanics may be of any race.

[2]Zhang, A., Musu-Gillette, L., & Oudekerk, B. A. (2016). Op. cit.

[3]Nansel, T. R., et al. Op. cit.

[4]Personal correspondence with Anne M. Shattuck, M.A., researcher at the Crimes Against Children Research Center

Suggested Citation:

Child Trends Databank. (2016). Bullying. Available at:

Last updated: May 2016