Bullying Might Be Most Severe, Frequent in Elementary School

Girl sitting with crossed legsBullying is common among children of all ages, but might be the most frequent and severe in elementary school, according to a study published in the Journal of Educational Psychology. The study also supports findings from previous research showing bullying often undermines academic performance.

Understanding the Scope of Bullying

The study followed 383 Illinois children from kindergarten through 12th grade. Nearly 1 in 4 (24%) experienced chronic bullying, and just 1 in 3 (32%) experienced no bullying at all. Bullying peaked in frequency and severity in elementary school, with most children experiencing decreases in bullying as they got older. Boys were more likely than girls to experience chronic bullying and to encounter bullying that increased over time.

Many anti-bullying programs target adolescents, but this study suggests targeting younger kids might produce better results.

How Bullying Affects Academics

Twenty-six percent of bullied children experienced decreases in bullying over time. These children fared almost as well academically as children who experienced little or no bullying.

For children who faced chronic bullying, however, the academic picture was bleaker. These children had lower academic performance, disliked school more, and were less confident in their academic abilities. Children whose bullying increased over time—18% of the group—had similar difficulties. The study’s authors suggest this means children can recover when bullying decreases, but chronic or worsening bullying is harder to manage. They urge parents and schools to intervene when students are bullied.

Other studies have found similar results. A 2010 study found a 1-point increase on a 4-point bullying scale produced a 1.5-point drop in 4-point grade point average (GPA) in one subject. A 2011 study found Virginia schools with higher rates of bullying had lower passing rates on standardized tests.

Another recent study found sexual harassment is among the most common forms of bullying in middle school.


  1. Bullying linked to lower school achievement. (2011, September 5). Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/bullying-linked-to-lower-school-achievement/2011/09/01/gIQArmQw4J_story.html?utm_term=.349ea677a10f
  2. Ladd, G. W., Ettekal, I., & Kochenderfer-Ladd, B. (2017). Peer victimization trajectories from kindergarten through high school: Differential pathways for children’s school engagement and achievement? Journal of Educational Psychology. doi:10.1037/edu0000177
  3. Wolpert, S. (2010, August 19). Victims of bullying suffer academically as well, UCLA psychologists report. Retrieved from http://newsroom.ucla.edu/releases/victims-of-bullying-suffer-academically-168220

© Copyright 2017 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • Leave a Comment
  • Gloria R

    February 17th, 2017 at 12:16 PM

    Kids can learn tolerance and kindness from the song, “Be a Buddy, Not a Bully,” which can help combat bullying. I was a teacher for 20 years. Site has received over 8500 hits so far.
    Another song that could help is, “Positivity”:
    Also, you can hear part of a unique new story about a non-violent superhero who wants to work with Aladdin’s son to help make the world better:

  • jett

    February 17th, 2017 at 12:24 PM

    Of course this will cause academics to slide- who can think about the spelling test tomorrow if all you can worry about is getting beat up on the playground??

Leave a Comment

By commenting you acknowledge acceptance of GoodTherapy.org's Terms and Conditions of Use.

* Indicates required field.

GoodTherapy uses cookies to personalize content and ads to provide better services for our users and to analyze our traffic. By continuing to use this site you consent to our cookies.