Income inequality and school bullying: multilevel study of adolescents in 37 countries

Case Studies & Research
9 p.
Periodical title
Journal of Adolescent Health, n°45

Purpose: To examine the association between income inequality and school bullying in an international sample of preadolescents and to test for mediation of this association by the availability of social support from families, peers, and schools. Methods: The study used economic data from the 2006 United Nations Development Program Human Development Report and survey data from the 2005/2006 Health Behavior in School-aged Children (HBSC) study which included 66,910 11-year-olds in 37 countries. Ecological correlations tested associations between income inequality and bullying among countries. Multilevel linear and ordinal regression analyses tested the effects of income inequality on perceived social support and bullying others at school. Results: Income inequality was associated with rates of bullying among the 37 countries (r = .62). Multilevel analyses indicated that each standard deviation increase in income inequality corresponded with more frequent bullying by males (odds ratio = 1.17) and females (odds ratio = 1.24), less family support and school support but more peer support. Social support from families and schools was associated with less bullying after differences in wealth were taken into account; however, social support did not account for the association between income inequality and bullying. Conclusions: Countries with high income inequality have more school bullying among preadolescents than countries with low income inequality. Further study is needed to understand the mechanisms that account for this association. Findings suggest that adolescents in areas of wide income inequality - not only those in deprived schools and neighborhoods - should bea focus of antibullying campaigns.

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