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Bullying & violence

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Adolescence is a pivotal period marked by intense social interactions, evolving relationships, and the exploration of identity. Sadly, this formative time can also be marred by experiences of bullying and violence. These harmful behaviours, whether occurring physically at school, within online spaces, or through more subtle forms of aggression, can leave lasting scars on young people’s well-being, academic success, and belief in a safe and supportive world.

Studying bullying and violence during adolescence is crucial for several reasons. This is a period of heightened vulnerability as young people navigate changing peer dynamics and power imbalances and may lack the coping mechanisms to address harmful situations effectively. Environmental factors such as familial dynamics and school climate can also significantly influence these experiences, acting as either risk factors or protective buffers. Additionally, patterns of aggression established during these formative years can persist into adulthood, potentially influencing future relationships and overall behaviour.

By examining the prevalence, contexts, and impacts of bullying and violence, decision-makers can create safer, more inclusive environments where all young people can thrive. This research helps inform educational programs, supportive policies, and interventions that foster respect, empathy, and healthy conflict resolution skills – essential building blocks for a more peaceful and just society.

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Key Findings

A focus on adolescent peer violence and bullying

Cover of volume 2. HBSC study second international report volume on bullying and peer violence
  • Involvement in peer violence varied across countries in Europe, central Asia and Canada.
  • Boys reported higher rates of perpetrating violence (bullying others at school or online and involvement in fighting).
  • No systematic age patterns were evident with regards to involvement in bullying and cyberbullying, but a significant decrease for fighting with increasing age was seen in more than half of the countries and regions.
  • On average, 6% of adolescents reported they had bullied others at school at least 2–3 times a month in the past couple of months (8% of boys and 5% of girls).
  • Around one in 10 (11%) boys and girls reported they had been bullied at school at least 2–3 times a month in the past couple of months.
  • The prevalence of adolescents who reported that they bullied others at school remained relatively stable since 2018, following a slight decline observed among boys between 2014 and 2018.
  • Bullying victimisation also did not change substantially in absolute terms over time, but a slight increase was observed among younger girls.
  • One in eight adolescents reported cyberbullying others at least once or twice in the past couple of months (14% of boys and 9% of girls). This represents a slight increase from 2018.
  • Overall, 15% of adolescents reported being cyberbullied at least once or twice in the past couple of months (15% of boys and 16% of girls).
  • In most countries and regions in which age differences were observed, cyberbullying victimisation peaked at age 11 for boys and 13 for girls.
  • One in 10 adolescents reported having been involved in physical fights at least three times in the last 12 months (14% of boys and 6% of girls).
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Cite this data

Cosma A, Molcho M, Pickett W. A focus on adolescent peer violence and bullying in Europe, central Asia and Canada. Health Behaviour in School-aged Children international report from the 2021/2022 survey. Volume 2. Copenhagen: WHO Regional Office for Europe; 2024. Licence: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 IGO.

Youth Commentary

“I think the biggest health problem in young people is that adolescents and children develop mental problems due to bullying behaviour. The solution could be for the government to educate and pay people to talk with youngsters if they are being bullied but also to address the bullies and to ask them why they bully others. I hope that bullies realize that what they did was wrong, and that bullying does not happen that often anymore.”

(Girl, Belgium (Flemish))

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