What protects children or puts them at risk of bullying?

December 4, 2023

Researchers have examined risk factors for both engaging in bullying and being bullied. One particularly robust meta-analysis incorporated 153 studies that included children from kindergarten to Grade 12. Researchers began by classifying children’s experiences with bullying into three categories: perpetrator only, victim only, and both perpetrator and victim. Some of the risk factors for being involved in bullying include:

  • Living in communities experiencing challenges (e.g.: high crime rates)
  • Having academic challenges
  • Having lower status among peers
  • Having peers who encourage negative behaviour
  • Having a negative view of oneself

In terms of identifying what can protect children from both bullying others and being bullied, the news is less encouraging. A meta-analysis that included 19 studies of youth aged 11 to 18 years identified only one protective factor: older age reduced the risk of perpetrating bullying.  For more information, see Vol. 15, No. 4 of the Children’s Mental Health Research Quarterly.