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      A multi-country analysis of the prevalence and factors associated with bullying victimisation among in-school adolescents in sub-Saharan Africa: evidence from the global school-based health survey


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          Over the past few years, there has been growing public and research interest in adolescents’ experiences with various forms of bullying victimisation because of their psychological, emotional, and/ or physical consequences. The present study examined the prevalence of bullying victimisation and its associated factors among in-school adolescents in sub-Saharan Africa.


          Using data from the Global School-based Health Survey (GSHS) from 2010 to 2017 of eleven sub-Saharan African countries, a sample of 25,454 in-school adolescents was used for analysis. Statistical analyses included frequencies, percentages, Pearson chi-square and multivariable logistic regression. Results were presented as adjusted odds ratios (aOR) at 95% confidence intervals (CIs).


          The overall prevalence of bullying victimisation among the respondents was 38.8%. The prevalence was lowest in Mauritius (22.2%) and highest in Sierra Leone (54.6%). Adolescents who felt lonely [aOR = 1.66, 95% CI = 1.53, 1.80], had history of anxiety [aOR = 1.53, 95% CI = 1.41, 1.66], suicidal ideation [aOR = 1.28, 95% CI = 1.17, 1.39], suicidal attempt [aOR = 1.86, 95% CI = 1.72, 2.02], current users of marijuana [aOR = 1.59, 95% CI = 1.38, 1.84], and truants at [aOR = 1.43, 95% CI = 1.34, 1.52] were more likely to be victims of bullying. Conversely, adolescents who had peer support were less likely to be victims of bullying [aOR = 0.78, 95% CI = 0.73, 0.82]. Adolescents aged 15 years or older had lower odds of experiencing bullying victimization compared to their counterparts aged 14 years or younger [aOR = 0.74, 95% CI = 0.69, 0.78].


          Our findings suggest that age, loneliness, anxiety, suicidal ideation, suicidal attempt, and current use of marijuana are associated with increased risk of bullying victimisation. School-wide preventative interventions (e.g., positive behavioural strategies- Rational Emotive Behavioral Education, [REBE], peer educator network systems, face-face counseling sessions, substance use cessation therapy) are essential in promoting a positive school climate and reduce students’ bullying victimisation behaviours.

          Supplementary Information

          The online version contains supplementary material available at 10.1186/s12888-021-03337-5.

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          Most cited references39

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          Bullying in schools: the state of knowledge and effective interventions.

          During the school years, bullying is one of the most common expressions of violence in the peer context. Research on bullying started more than forty years ago, when the phenomenon was defined as 'aggressive, intentional acts carried out by a group or an individual repeatedly and over time against a victim who cannot easily defend him- or herself'. Three criteria are relevant in order to define aggressive behaviour as bullying: (1) repetition, (2) intentionality and (3) an imbalance of power. Given these characteristics, bullying is often defined as systematic abuse of power by peers. It is recognised globally as a complex and serious problem. In the present paper, we discuss the prevalence, age and gender differences, and various types of bullying, as well as why it happens and how long it lasts, starting from the large surveys carried out in western countries and to a lower extent in low- and middle-income countries. The prevalence rates vary widely across studies; therefore, specific attention will be devoted to the definition, time reference period and frequency criterion. We will also focus on risk factors as well as short- and long-term outcomes of bullying and victimisation. Finally, a section will be dedicated to review what is known about effective prevention of bullying.
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            Bullying in schools: the power of bullies and the plight of victims.

            Bullying is a pervasive problem affecting school-age children. Reviewing the latest findings on bullying perpetration and victimization, we highlight the social dominance function of bullying, the inflated self-views of bullies, and the effects of their behaviors on victims. Illuminating the plight of the victim, we review evidence on the cyclical processes between the risk factors and consequences of victimization and the mechanisms that can account for elevated emotional distress and health problems. Placing bullying in context, we consider the unique features of electronic communication that give rise to cyberbullying and the specific characteristics of schools that affect the rates and consequences of victimization. We then offer a critique of the main intervention approaches designed to reduce school bullying and its harmful effects. Finally, we discuss future directions that underscore the need to consider victimization a social stigma, conduct longitudinal research on protective factors, identify school context factors that shape the experience of victimization, and take a more nuanced approach to school-based interventions.
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              Bullying behaviour and psychosocial health among school students in New South Wales, Australia: cross sectional survey.

              To examine the prevalence of bullying behaviours in schoolchildren and the association of bullying with psychological and psychosomatic health. Cross sectional survey. Government and non-government schools in New South Wales, Australia. 3918 schoolchildren attending year 6 (mean age 11.88 years), year 8 (13.96), and year 10 (15.97) classes from 115 schools. Self reported bullying behaviours and psychological and psychosomatic symptoms. Almost a quarter of students (23.7%) bullied other students, 12.7% were bullied, 21.5% were both bullied and bullied others on one or more occasions in the last term of school, and 42.4% were neither bullied nor bullied others. More boys than girls reported bullying others and being victims of bullying. Bullying behaviour was associated with increased psychosomatic symptoms. Bullies tended to be unhappy with school; students who were bullied tended to like school and to feel alone. Students who both bullied and were bullied had the greatest number of psychological and psychosomatic symptoms. Being bullied seems to be widespread in schools in New South Wales and is associated with increased psychosomatic symptoms and poor mental health. Health practitioners evaluating students with common psychological and psychosomatic symptoms should consider bullying and the student's school environment as potential causes.

                Author and article information

                BMC Psychiatry
                BMC Psychiatry
                BMC Psychiatry
                BioMed Central (London )
                1 July 2021
                1 July 2021
                : 21
                [1 ]GRID grid.449729.5, ISNI 0000 0004 7707 5975, Department of Family and Community Health, School of Public Health, , University of Health and Allied Sciences, ; PMB 31, Ho, Ghana
                [2 ]GRID grid.413081.f, ISNI 0000 0001 2322 8567, Department of Population and Health, , University of Cape Coast, ; Cape Coast, Ghana
                [3 ]GRID grid.1011.1, ISNI 0000 0004 0474 1797, College of Public Health, Medical and Veterinary Services, , James Cook University, ; Townsville, Australia
                [4 ]GRID grid.511546.2, ISNI 0000 0004 0424 5478, Department of Estate Management, , Takoradi Technical University, ; Takoradi, Ghana
                [5 ]GRID grid.413081.f, ISNI 0000 0001 2322 8567, Department of Health, Physical Education, and Recreation, , University of Cape Coast, ; Cape Coast, Ghana
                [6 ]GRID grid.7491.b, ISNI 0000 0001 0944 9128, Neurocognition and Action-Biomechanics-Research Group, Faculty of Psychology and Sport Sciences, , Bielefeld University, ; Bielefeld, Germany
                [7 ]GRID grid.9829.a, ISNI 0000000109466120, Department of Health Promotion, Education and Disability Studies, , Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, ; Kumasi, Ghana
                [8 ]GRID grid.117476.2, ISNI 0000 0004 1936 7611, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, , University of Technology Sydney, ; Sydney, Australia
                [9 ]GRID grid.117476.2, ISNI 0000 0004 1936 7611, School of Public Health, Faculty of Health, , University of Technology Sydney, ; Sydney, Australia
                © The Author(s) 2021

                Open AccessThis article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated in a credit line to the data.

                Funded by: FundRef http://dx.doi.org/10.13039/501100005721, Universität Bielefeld;
                Award ID: Open Access Publication Fund
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                Funded by: Universität Bielefeld (3146)
                Research Article
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                © The Author(s) 2021

                Clinical Psychology & Psychiatry
                abuse,bullying,in-school adolescents,physical harm,sub-saharan africa,victimisation


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