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National Academy Calls For Action To Address Bullying On Multiple Fronts

Many Epidemiologic Research Needs Identified

A National Academies committee which undertook a review of what is known and needs to be known to reduce bullying and its consequences has concluded  “…Bullying is not a normal part of childhood, and is now appropriately considered to be a serious public health problem.”

Selected Findings

The prevalence data that are available indicate that school-based bullying likely affects 18-31% of children and youth, and cyber victimization ranges from 7-15% of youth. Some of the other findings in the report are listed below.

·       Bullying creates changes in the stress response systems and in the brain that are associated with increased risk for mental health problems, cognitive function, self-regulation, and other physical health problems.

·       Data are unclear on the role of bullying as one of or a precipitating cause of school shootings

·       Multicomponent schoolwide programs that involve classroom, parent, and individual elements bundled together appear to be most effective at reducing bullying .


The committee made 7 recommendations, several of which epidemiologists are in a

position to act on. According to the Committee, “This is a pivotal time for bullying prevention, and there is not a quick fix or one-size-fits-all solution. Nevertheless, science and policy have provided, and will continue to improve, tools needed to tackle this complex and serious public health problem.”

These recommendations in abridged form are presented below:

·       Foster the use of a consistent definition of bullying

·       Obtain more accurate prevalence estimates

·       Evaluate the efficacy of anti-bullying laws

·       Hold an annual meeting to facilitate collaborate and review of data

·       Report findings annually to Congress to strengthen laws and policies

·       Implement and evaluate evidence based bullying interventions

·       Support bullying prevention training

·       Implement prevention policies and programs on social media platforms

Research Needs

The NAS Committee investigated research needs and published a list of outstanding questions. Among the knowledge gaps most relevant for  epidemiologists were the following:

·       Conduct longitudinal research to track children through adulthood in order to more fully understand links among being bullied, substance abuse, and other behaviors including violence and aggression.

·       Investigate evidence-based practices for integrating content on bullying preventive interventions into curricula for health care professionals.

·       Conduct systematic evaluation of local policies to: (1) understand which components of anti-bullying policies must be included in an anti-bullying law to ensure a positive impact; (2) determine the full range of remedies available under state and local laws and policies; and (3) assess the capacity of federal antidiscrimination laws to address various forms of bullying.

·       Conduct research on cyberbullying prevention programs.

·       Study the disparities in prevalence between different groups (e.g., LGBT youth, overweight/obese youth, youth with specific developmental disabilities, socioeconomic status, immigration status, minority religious status, youth with intersectional identities, urbanicity).

·       Investigate evidence-based interventions that are targeted toward youth from vulnerable populations (e.g., LGBT youth, youth with chronic health problems, and youth with developmental disabilities) to reduce bullying-related disparities.

·       Study how to improve the adoption and implementation of evidence-based programs, including testing models to better understand what works for whom and under what conditions.


The report concludes on an upbeat note:

“The study of bullying behavior is a relatively recent field, and it is in transition. Over the past few decades, research has significantly improved understanding of what bullying behavior is, how it can be measured, and the critical contextual factors that are involved. While there is not a quick fix or one-size-fits-all solution, the evidence clearly supports preventive and interventional policy and practice. Tackling this complex and serious public health problem will require a commitment to research, analysis, trial, and refinement, but doing so can make a tangible difference in the lives of many children.”

To access the full NAS report, visit:


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