As a growing number of states pass laws against bullying, new research finds that bullies and their victims are more likely than other children to be victims of crime outside of school.
“They’re often victimized in the community,” says Melissa Holt, research professor at the University of New Hampshire’s Crimes Against Children Research Center, co-author of a new study on bullying.
The kids in the study at greatest risk are those who are both bullies and victims of bullies, Holt says. Of those, 84% had been victims of a crime, including burglary and assault, and 32% had been sexually abused. The study was based on interviews with 689 fifth-graders in 2005 in an unidentified urban, low-income school district in Massachusetts. Holt says the area’s overall crime rate is higher than average, but she believes that the pattern of victimization would hold in most places.
The study found that 70% of bullies and 66% of bullying victims were crime victims, compared with 43% of kids who were neither bullies nor victims.
Holt says bullies may be less apt to walk away from fights, and therefore more likely to be assaulted, and more likely to associate with aggressive kids who would commit crimes against them. A shy or insecure child is vulnerable in and out of school, she says.