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International Journal of Adolescent Medicine and Health

Editor-in-Chief: Merrick, Joav

Editorial Board Member: Birch, Diana ML / Blum, Robert W. / Furniss, Tilman / Greydanus, MD, Dr. HC (Athens), Donald E. / Hardoff, Daniel / Kerr, Mike / Levy, Howard B / Morad, Mohammed / Omar, Hatim A. / de Paul, Joaquin / Rydelius, Per-Anders / Shek, Daniel T.L. / Sher, Leo / Silber, Tomas J. / Towns, Susan / Urkin, Jacob / Verhofstadt-Deneve, Leni / Zeltzer, Lonnie

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School bullying: its nature and ecology

1 / Lisa De La Rue1

1Department of Educational Psychology, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, IL, USA

Corresponding author: Dorothy L. Espelage, PhD, 226A Education Building, 1310 S 6th St, Champaign, IL 61820, USA

Citation Information: International Journal of Adolescent Medicine and Health. Volume 24, Issue 1, Pages 3–10, ISSN (Online) 2191-0278, ISSN (Print) 0334-0139, DOI: 10.1515/ijamh.2012.002, November 2011

Publication History

Published Online:


Background: Recent youth suicides only highlight a persistent problem in schools – bullying and sustained peer victimization. Being a target or victim of bullying has long been recognized has having short- and long-term psychological effects on children and adolescents across the world today. School bullying is one of the most significant public health concerns facing children and adolescents.

Objective: Involvement in the social phenomena of school bullying is often explained as emerging from a wide range of risk and protective factors within the social-ecology of youth. The social-ecological model posits that bullying behaviors are shaped by various interrelated contexts including individual characteristics, family, peers and the school environment.

Methods: Research is reviewed to highlight the correlates of bullying involvement across these context using social-ecological and social-learning frameworks. Meta-analytic studies are reviewed on the short- and long-term impact of bullying involvement and efficacy of bullying prevention programs. Specific recommendations for prevention planning and future research efforts are provided.

Conclusions: Bullying is a multi-faceted issue, which is best understood in the larger social context in which it occurs. Individual characteristics of students contribute to bullying involve­ment when students have families that promote violence, teachers that ignore or dismiss bullying, schools that have negative climates and students who socialize with friends who bully. These social contexts need to be targeted in bully prevention programs to reduce bullying and peer victimization in schools.

Keywords: adolescence; bullying; school

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