Tuesday, August 4, 2020
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Poorer countries have more bullying, fighting

A press release from McGill University describes a study showing that youth violence is more prevalent in countries that are economically disadvantaged.

Using data from two international school-based surveys, the Health Behaviour in School-aged Children and Global School-based Health Survey, Frank Elgar, a professor at the Institute for Health and Social Policy at McGill University reports on rates of bullying and physical fighting in 79 countries.

We note that the study reports a correlation, not a causation, and no causative effects are concluded in the study, which has been published in The Journal of Adolescent Health.

The study focused on bullying victimization (repeated physical or verbal aggression, involving a power imbalance between victim and aggressor) during the previous two months and frequent physical fighting (4 or more episodes in the previous year) in over 330,000 youths ages 11 to 16.

Mr Elgar and his colleagues linked these records to information about the countries’ per capita income, income inequality, and government spending on education.

“Bullying and physical fighting are far more prevalent in poorer countries,” he was quoted as saying. “However, we found that in wealthy but unequal countries, physical fighting may be reduced through greater government investment in education.”


Children are more likely to be bullied in poorer countries. (Source: McGill University)

The study, the largest of its kind, found a six-fold difference in school bullying and 12-fold difference in fighting between rich and poor countries. In Africa, for example, about 50 percent of children in this age range have been a victim of bullying, compared to a 30-percent world average.

The study also found differences in the proportion of females and males involved in physical fighting: 10.7 percent of males and 2.7 percent of females had been involved in four or more fights in the 12 months prior to the study.

In just the US, fighting is twice as common in males (8.4%) than in females (3.9%). Bullying is near the international norm: 30.8% of males and 29.7% females in the US have been the target of bullying.

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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