Bullying, violence, and risk behavior in South African school students

Child Abuse Negl. 2007 Feb;31(2):161-71. doi: 10.1016/j.chiabu.2006.08.007. Epub 2007 Feb 20.


Objectives: To examine the prevalence of bullying behavior in adolescents from Cape Town and Durban, South Africa, and the association of these behaviors with levels of violence and risk behavior.

Method: Five thousand and seventy-four adolescent schoolchildren in grade 8 (mean age 14.2 years) and grade 11 (mean age 17.4 years) at 72 Government schools in Cape Town and Durban, South Africa completed self-report questionnaires on participation in bullying, violent, anti-social and risk behaviors.

Results: Over a third (36.3%) of students were involved in bullying behavior, 8.2% as bullies, 19.3% as victims and 8.7% as bully-victims (those that are both bullied and bully others). Male students were most at risk of both perpetration and victimization, with younger boys more vulnerable to victimization. Violent and anti-social behaviors were increased in bullies, victims and bully-victims compared to controls not involved in any bullying behavior (p<.01 in all cases). Risk taking behavior was elevated for bullies and bully-victims, but for victims was largely comparable to controls. Victims were less likely to smoke than controls (odds ratio .83, p<.05). Bully-victims showed largely comparable violent, anti-social and risk taking behavior profiles to bullies. Bully-victims showed comparable suicidal ideation and smoking profiles to victims.

Conclusions: Results were in keeping with Western findings. Involvement in bullying is a common problem for young South Africans. Bullying behavior can act as an indicator of violent, anti-social and risk-taking behaviors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Aggression*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Peer Group
  • Risk-Taking*
  • South Africa
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Violence*