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Why Preventing Bullying is Important

Bullying affects everyone – not only the youth who are bullied but also those who bully, those who witness bullying – even the whole school and community.

At its core, bullying is a human rights violation. Bullying takes away students’ rights to education and to freedom from persecution and discrimination. We all are obligated to ensure that these rights are protected.

Research about the impact of bullying continues to grow. It suggests that those who bully and are bullied are at risk for many negative outcomes, such as those listed below. Many of these outcomes can last well into adulthood. Bullying is often just one of many factors involved in these negative outcomes; it alone is not the cause. Also, not all youth who are bullied or engage in bullying behaviors will develop these outcomes. But for those who do, the costs are high.


Youth Who are Bullied +

In the short term and well into adulthood, youth who are bullied are more likely to:

  • Be depressed or anxious
  • Have suicidal thoughts or engage in suicidal behaviors
  • Show declines in their school performance and standardized test scores
  • Miss school or drop out
  • Have poor physical health and develop psychosomatic symptoms (e.g., bedwetting, sleep disturbance, etc.)
  • Use drugs or alcohol

Youth Who Bully Others +

When bullying behavior is left unaddressed, young people who bully may continue to be aggressive and abusive as adults; they also may struggle with mental health issues. Youth who bully others are more likely to:

  • Be depressed or anxious
  • Use drugs and alcohol
  • Become involved in the justice system as adults
  • Be abusive or aggressive to partners, spouses, and children

Youth Who Witness Bullying +

Research on youth who witness bullying is limited, but studies indicate that those who witness bullying are more likely to:

  • Miss or skip school
  • Use drugs or alcohol
  • Be depressed or have social anxiety

Many young people who witness bullying agree that bullying is wrong and want to help.  However, they may be reluctant to intervene because they too may be targeted or will lose social status.

References Used for this Page +

Buhs, E., Ladd, G., & Herald, S. (2006). Peer exclusion and victimization: Processes that mediate the relation between peer group rejection and children’s classroom engagement and achievement. Journal of Educational Psychology, 98(1), 1-13.

Copeland, W.E., Wolke, D., Angold, A., & Costello, J. (2013). Adult psychiatric outcomes of bullying and being bullied by peers in childhood and adolescence. JAMA Psychiatry, E1-E8.

Hawker, D.S. & Boulton, M.J. (2000) Twenty years’ research on peer victimization and psychosocial maladjustment: A meta-analytic review of cross-sectional studies. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 41(4), 441-455.

Juvonen, J., Wang, Y., & Espinoza, G. (2011). Bullying experiences and compromised academic performance across middle school grades. Journal of Early Adolescence, 31(1), 152-173

Nansel, T. R., Overpeck, M., Pilla, R.S., Ruann, W.J., Simons-Morton, B., & Scheidt, P. (2001). Bullying behaviors among US youth: Prevalence and association with psychosocial adjustment. JAMA, 285(16), 2094-2100.

Rigby, K. (2001). Health consequences of bullying and its prevention in schools. In: J. Juvonen and S. Graham (Eds.). Peer harassment in school: The plight of the vulnerable and victimized. New York: The Guilford Press, pp. 310-331.

Rivers, I., Poteat, V.P., Noret, N., & Ashurst, N. (2009). Observing bullying at school: The mental health implications of witness status. School Psychology Quarterly, 24(4), 211-233.

Schroeder, D. (2012, April 2). Cost Benefit Analysis of Bullying Prevention. Webinar presentation for the NIHCM.

Swearer, S.M. (2011). Risk factors for and outcomes of bullying and victimization. White Papers from the White House Conference on Bullying Prevention, 3-10.

Ttofi, M.M., Farrington, D.P., Losel, F., & Loeber, R. (2011). The predictive efficiency of school bullying versus later offending: A systematic/meta-analytic review of longitudinal studies. Criminal Behaviour and Mental Health, 21, 80-89.