Question: How common is bullying during the tween years?
Answer: Unfortunately, bullying seems to be quite common during the tween years, with frequency varying by type.
One particularly comprehensive study asked kids (average age of 12) about their experiences with bullying. The kids reported personally observing about 50 aggressive incidents each week. Verbal bullying was most commonly experienced while physical bullying was least common. The various forms of relational aggression were witnessed an intermediate amount of times, but were perceived to be most harmful.
The researchers also asked about frequency of specific forms of each type of bullying. Calling someone a mean name was the most common type of verbal bullying, while hitting or punching someone was the most frequently experienced form of physical assault. Gossiping, making fun of someone in front of a group and giving someone a dirty look were common forms of relational bullying. Girls experienced gossiping and dirty looks much more than boys did. Some forms of relational aggression were uncommon; breaking confidences, not inviting to a party and rolling eyes at someone were reported to be relatively infrequently experienced.
Kids in this study experienced the most relational bullying when they were 12 to 13 years of age, which matches other studies. The researchers believe that relational aggression peaks at this age because social groups have just become well established yet social sanctions against aggression remain weak.
The researchers also compared media experiences of bullying to the real life reports the kids provided. They estimated that tweens see about 319 acts of relational and social aggression on TV each week. They noted that this is about 10 times the amount of relational bullying they experience in everyday life.
Coyne, Sarah, Archer, John, and Eslea, Mike. "We're Not Friends Anymore! Unless…" The Frequency and Harmfulness of Indirect, Relational and Social Aggression. Aggressive Behavior. 2006. 32: 294-307.