Structural determinants of youth bullying and fighting in 79 countries

Frank J Elgar, Britt McKinnon, Sophie D. Walsh, John Freeman, Peter D Donnelly, Maragrida Gaspar de Matos, Genevieve Gariepy, Aixa Y Aleman-Diaz, William Pickett, Michal Molcho, Candace Currie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

102 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: The prevention of youth violence is a public health priority in many countries. We examined the prevalence of bullying victimization and physical fighting in youths in 79 high- and low-income countries and the relations between structural determinants of adolescent health (country wealth, income inequality, and government spending on education) and international differences in youth violence. Methods: Cross-sectional surveys were administered in schools between 2003 and 2011. These surveys provided national prevalence rates of bullying victimization (n = 334,736) and four or more episodes of physical fighting in the past year (n = 342,312) in eligible and consenting 11–16 year olds. Contextual measures included per capita income, income inequality, and government expenditures on education. We used meta-regression to examine relations between country characteristics and youth violence. Results: Approximately 30% of adolescents reported bullying victimization and 10.7% of males and 2.7% of females were involved in frequent physical fighting. More youth were exposed to violence in African and Eastern Mediterranean countries than in Europe and Asia. Violence directly related to country wealth; a 1 standard deviation increase in per capita income corresponded to less bullying (-3.9% in males and -4.2% in females) and less fighting (-2.9% in males and -1.0% in females). Income inequality and education spending modified the relation between country wealth and fighting; where inequality was high, country wealth related more closely to fighting if education spending was also high. Conclusions: Country wealth is a robust determinant of youth violence. Fighting in affluent but economically unequal countries might be reduced through increased government spending on education.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)643-650
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Adolescent Health
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2015


  • Youth violence
  • Bullying
  • Physical fighting
  • Income inequality
  • Health Behaviour in School-aged Children;
  • Global School-based Health Survey


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