Socioeconomic inequality in exposure to bullying during adolescence: a comparative, cross-sectional, multilevel study in 35 Countries

Pernille Due, Juan Merlo, Yossi Harel-Fisch, Mogens Trab Damsgaard, Bjorn E. Holstein, Jorn Hetland, Candace Currie, Saoirse Nic Gabhainn, Margarida Gaspar de Matos, John Lynch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

219 Citations (Scopus)


Objectives: We examined the socioeconomic distribution of adolescent exposure to bullying internationally and documented the contribution of the macroeconomic environment.
Methods: We used an international survey of 162305 students aged 11, 13, and 15 years from nationally representative samples of 5998 schools in 35 countries in Europe and North America for the 2001-2002 school year. The survey used standardized measures of exposure to bullying and socioeconomic affluence.
Results: Adolescents from families of low affluence reported higher prevalence of being victims of bullying (odds ratio [OR] = 1.13; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.10, 1.16). International differences in prevalence of exposure to bullying were not associated with the economic level of the country (as measured by gross national income) or the school, but wide disparities in affluence at a school and large economic inequality (as measured by the Gini coefficient) at the national level were associated with an increased prevalence of exposure to bullying.
Conclusions: There is socioeconomic inequality in exposure to bullying among adolescents, leaving children of greater socioeconomic disadvantage at higher risk of victimization. Adolescents who attend schools and live in countries where socioeconomic differences are larger are at higher risk of being bullied. (Am J Public Health. 2009;99:907-914. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2008.139303)
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)907-914
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Journal of Public Health
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2009


  • bullying
  • inequality
  • adolescents
  • socioeconomic differences
  • cross-sectional study


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