Stephen Joseph Ph.D.

What Doesn't Kill Us


Are Schools Doing Enough to Prevent Bullying?

New research to assess the extent and types of bullying.

Posted Aug 18, 2018

Peer victimization involves the repeated and systematic abuse of power by one or more peers over a period of time in attempts to injure or inflict discomfort. It is a relatively frequent experience among young people: estimates vary depending on age and gender, but research has suggested that between 5 and 30 percent of children and adolescents are victims.

Peer victimization experiences are associated with a range of physical, emotional, academic, and behavioural problems. Research has shown that victims generally have a lower quality of life and experience poor self-esteemloneliness and isolation; increased psychosomatic complaints; greater anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress; are at greater risk for suicidal thoughts and behaviors; face greater problems such as aggression, delinquency, and misconduct; and perform less well academically than those who are not victimized.

There are consistent findings regarding gender differences. Studies show that overall, males report significantly more victimization than females. Direct forms of victimization—namely physical victimization and attacks on property—are more likely to be experienced by boys, while indirect victimization and social manipulation are more likely to be experienced by girls.

The psychological difficulties experienced through peer victimization in childhood and adolescence may produce negative outcomes well into adulthood. As such, peer-victimization and how to provide helpful interventions for young people is a topic of much interest to educators and other professionals. 

But are we doing enough to help young people? Are parents, teachers, and other adults sufficiently aware of just how widespread peer victimization is and how damaging it can be to psychological health?

The simple answer to these questions is no, if you consider that recent surveys continue to show high rates of bullying in schools and among young people, and high rates of psychological problems in those who are victimized. It is still happening.

It is time to increase awareness of the issues and get more serious about prevention and helping those who are affected. In our new research published in the journal Aggression and Violent Behavior, we describe a tool that schools can use to assess bullying and to begin to address some of the questions. The tool is a short survey that asks children about their experiences of physical victimization, verbal victimization, social manipulation, and property attacks. If your school doesn't already know what's going on, then it's time to start asking.


Joseph, S., & Stockton, H. (2018). The multidimensional peer victimization scale: A systematic review. Aggression and Violent Behavior.