This study examined the prevalence of bullying and related behaviors between 2005 and 2014 and explored whether any such changes varied across schools or as a function of school-level covariates.
Bullying is a significant public health concern, and it has received considerable attention from the media and policymakers over the past decade, which has led some to believe that it is increasing; however, there are limited surveillance data on bullying to inform our understanding of such trends over the course of multiple years. In the current study, youth self-reports of 13 indicators of bullying and related behaviors were collected from 246,306 students in 109 Maryland schools across 10 years. The data were weighted to reflect the school populations and were analyzed by using longitudinal hierarchical linear modeling to examine changes over time. The covariate-adjusted models indicated a significant improvement in bullying and related concerns in 10 out of 13 indicators (including a decrease in bullying and victimization) for in-person forms (i.e., physical, verbal, relational) and cyberbullying. Results also showed an increase in the perceptions that adults do enough to stop bullying and students' feelings of safety and belonging at school. The prevalence of bullying and related behaviors generally decreased over this 10-year period, with the most recent years showing the greatest improvements in school climate and reductions in bullying. Additional research is needed to identify factors that contributed to this declining trend. (Publisher abstract modified)