Prevalence of bullying by gender and education in a city with high violence and migration in Mexico

Prevalencia de intimidación desglosada en función del sexo y la escolaridad en una ciudad mexicana con índices altos de violencia y migración

Prevalência de bullying por gênero e escolaridade em uma cidade com altos índices de violência e migração no México

Arnulfo Ramos-Jiménez Rosa P Hernández-Torres Miguel Murguía-Romero Rafael Villalobos-Molina About the authors

ABSTRACT

Objective

To understand the prevalence of bullying, by gender and educational level, in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, a city with high rates of violence and migration.

Methods

This was a cross-sectional, observational study conducted in 2012 – 2014 using a questionnaire known as the Bullying-Mexican. A probabilistic multistage cluster-sampling method obtained a study sample of 2 347 students (10 – 27 years of age) from the 400 000 enrolled in grade 5 – university level at the 611 public schools in Ciudad Juárez. Bullying prevalence and frequency (never, rarely, sometimes, often, every day) were analyzed with descriptive statistics. The statistical differences between males and females was assessed using a chi-square test; associations between frequency and academic level were determined by correspondence analysis and the Spearman Rho correlation. A multinomial logistic regression was performed to analyze whether gender and academic level acted independently in the frequency of bullying.

Results

Bullying prevalence was reported by 38% of females and 47% of males: ‘only victim’ represented 8.7%; ‘only aggressor,’ 13.2%; and ‘victim and aggressor,’ 21%. At higher levels of education, bullying prevalence declined; however, at the university, prevalence increased in the last semesters. Mockery and social exclusion were the two most dominant types of bullying, followed by beating, threats, and punishment.

Conclusions

The prevalence of bullying in Ciudad Juárez public schools is among the highest compared to other random studies and surveys. Bullying diminishes with age and educational level.

Keywords
Bullying; aggression; violence; Mexico

RESUMEN

Objetivo

Comprender la prevalencia de intimidación o bullying, desglosada en función del sexo y el nivel de escolaridad, en Ciudad Juárez (México), ciudad con índices altos de violencia y migración.

Métodos

Este estudio transversal de observación se realizó entre el 2012 y el 2014 con el cuestionario mexicano sobre la intimidación (Bull-M). Tras aplicar el método probabilístico polietápico de muestreo por conglomerados, se obtuvo una muestra de 2 347 estudiantes (de 10 a 27 años) de los 400 000 matriculados entre el quinto grado y el nivel universitario en las 611 instituciones de educación pública de Ciudad Juárez. Se analizaron la prevalencia y la frecuencia de la intimidación (nunca, rara vez, a veces, a menudo, todos los días) mediante estadísticas descriptivas. Se evaluó la diferencia estadística entre los hombres y las mujeres con la prueba de la ji al cuadrado y se determinó la asociación entre la frecuencia y el nivel académico mediante el análisis de correspondencias y la correlación ro de Spearman (R). Se aplicó una regresión logística polinómica para analizar si el sexo y el nivel académico eran variables independientes respecto de la frecuencia de la intimidación.

Resultados

La intimidación tuvo una prevalencia del 38% en las mujeres y del 47% en los hombres: refirieron ser “solo víctimas” el 8,7%; “solo agresores” el 13,2%; y “víctimas y agresores” el 21%. La prevalencia de la intimidación disminuye a medida que aumenta el nivel de escolaridad, aunque se registró un incremento en los últimos semestres de la universidad. Los dos tipos más predominantes de intimidación son la burla y la exclusión social, a los que siguen la agresión física, la amenaza y el castigo.

Conclusiones

La prevalencia de intimidación en las instituciones de educación pública de Ciudad Juárez se encuentra entre las más altas cuando se la compara con otros estudios y encuestas de diseño aleatorizado. La intimidación disminuye a medida que avanza la edad y aumenta el nivel de escolaridad.

Palabras clave
Acoso escolar; agresión; violencia; México

RESUMO

Objetivo

Compreender a prevalência de bullying, estratificada por gênero e escolaridade, em Ciudad Juárez, México, um município com altos índices de violência e migração.

Métodos

Estudo transversal observacional realizado em 2012-2014 usando o instrumento Bullying-Mexican. Utilizando um método probabilístico de amostragem multietápica por conglomerados, obteve-se uma amostra de 2 347 estudantes (10-27 anos de idade) do universo de 400 000 estudantes matriculados da 5ª série ao ensino superior nas 611 escolas públicas de Ciudad Juárez. A prevalência e frequência (nunca, raramente, às vezes, frequentemente, todos os dias) de bullying foram analisadas mediante estatísticas descritivas. A diferença estatística entre homens e mulheres foi avaliada através do teste qui-quadrado; associações entre frequência de bullying e escolaridade foram determinadas mediante análise de correspondência e coeficiente de correlação de Spearman (R). Foi realizada análise de regressão logística multinomial para determinar se gênero e escolaridade influenciaram independentemente a frequência de bullying.

Resultados

O bullying foi relatado por 38% das mulheres e 47% dos homens: 8,7% identificaram-se como “somente vítimas”, 13,2% como “somente agressor”, e 21% como “vítima e agressor”. Nos níveis mais altos de escolaridade, a prevalência de bullying foi menor; porém, no ensino superior, aumentou novamente nos últimos semestres. Assédio verbal e exclusão social foram os dois tipos mais comuns de bullying, seguidos de agressão física, ameaças e castigos.

Conclusões

A prevalência de bullying nas escolas públicas de Ciudad Juárez está entre as mais elevadas já relatadas em estudos randomizados e levantamentos. O bullying diminui conforme a idade e escolaridade aumentam.

Palavras-chave
Bullying; agressão; violência; México

Bullying is characterized as repeated aggressive behavior exhibited as physical and/or psychological, systematic mistreatment between two parties (11 Olweus D. Definition of bullying. In: Smith PK, Morita Y, Junger-Tas J, Olweus D, Catalano RF, Slee P, eds. The nature of school bullying: a cross-national perspective. New York: Routledge; 1999.). Children who are victims of bullying, and aggressors (bullies) to a lesser degree, have higher incidences of health complaints, learning problems (22 Totura CMW, Green AE, Karver MS, Gesten EL. Multiple informants in the assessment of psychological, behavioral, and academic correlates of bullying and victimization in middle school. J Adolesc Health. 2009;32(2):193–211.), depression, and long-term social problems in interpersonal relationships (33 Due P, Damsgaard MT, Lund R, Holstein BE. Is bullying equally harmful for rich and poor children?: a study of bullying and depression from age 15 to 27. Eur J Public Health. 2009;19(suppl 5):464–9.55 Hanley AJ, Gibb BE. Verbal victimization and changes in hopelessness among elementary school children. JCCAP. 2011; 40(5):772–6.); these may result in domestic violence, criminality, substance abuse, and even suicidal thoughts (44 Fleming LC, Jacobsen KH. Bullying and symptoms of depression in Chilean middle-school students. J Sch Health. 2009;79 (suppl 3):130–7., 66 Finkelhor D, Turner H, Hamby S, Ormrod R. Polyvictimization: children’s exposure to multiple types of violence, crime, and abuse. Free Inq Creativ Sociol. 2014;39(2):24–34., 77 Wolke D, Copeland WE, Angold A, Costello EJ: Impact of bullying in childhood on adult health, wealth, crime, and social outcomes. Psychol Sci. 2013;24(10):1958–70.).

Bullying occurs in nearly all social groups. Some of these groups are more susceptible to this problem and its consequences than others; among these groups, children and youth who have just initiated their studies at different educational levels are some of the most vulnerable, i.e., those who are perceived as weak, are short in stature, who have a different religion/skin color/ethnicity, immigrants, and those with disabilities, among others (88 Albóres-Gallo L, Sauceda-García JM, Ruiz-Velasco S, Roque-Santiago E. Bullying and its association with psychiatric disorders in a Mexican students sample. Salud Publica Mex. 2011;53:220–7.1111 Pottie K, Dahal G, Georgiades K, Premji K, Hassan G. Do first generation immigrant adolescents face higher rates of bullying, violence and suicidal behaviours than do third generation and native born? J Immigr Minor Health. 2015;17:1557–66.). Craig and colleagues (1212 Craig W, Harel-Fisch Y, Fogel-Grinvald H, Dostaler S, Hetland J, Simons-Morton B, et al. A cross-national profile of bullying and victimization among adolescents in 40 countries. Int J Public Health. 2009;54(2): 216–24.), in their cross-national study on bullying and victimization in 40 countries (n = 202 056), showed that the prevalence of bullying in high schools ranged from 9%–45% and from 5%–36% among males and females, respectively. Verbal (~66%), physical (~50%), and social exclusion (~47%) are the most common representations (1313 Romaní F, Gutiérrez C, Lama M. Auto-reporte de agresividad escolar y factores asociados en escolares peruanos de educación secundaria. Rev Peru Epidemiol. 2011;15(2):118–25., 1414 Williams KR, Guerra NG. Prevalence and predictors of Internet bullying. J Adoles Health. 2007;41(6):S14–21.). The principals of these schools reported several causes of this phenomenon, such as psychological problems (56%) and social positioning (41%) for the bully, and being deviant, different, odd, or perceived as not fitting in (44%) for the bullied (1414 Williams KR, Guerra NG. Prevalence and predictors of Internet bullying. J Adoles Health. 2007;41(6):S14–21.). All of these features are observed in populations with high migration and violence (1111 Pottie K, Dahal G, Georgiades K, Premji K, Hassan G. Do first generation immigrant adolescents face higher rates of bullying, violence and suicidal behaviours than do third generation and native born? J Immigr Minor Health. 2015;17:1557–66.).

On the other hand, it has been reported that bullying prevalence may be aligned with educational level (99 Nansel TR, Overpeck M, Pilla RS, Ruan WJ, Simons-Morton B, Scheidt P. Bullying behaviors among US youth: prevalence and association with psychosocial adjustment. JAMA. 2001;285(16):2094–100., 1010 Sawyer AL, Bradshaw CP, O’Brennan LM. Examining ethnic, gender, and developmental differences in the way children report being a victim of “bullying” on self-report measures. J Adoles Health. 2008;43(2):106–14.), and that in large part, it is a learned behavior (99 Nansel TR, Overpeck M, Pilla RS, Ruan WJ, Simons-Morton B, Scheidt P. Bullying behaviors among US youth: prevalence and association with psychosocial adjustment. JAMA. 2001;285(16):2094–100., 1515 Thornberg R, Rosenqvist R, Johansson P. Older teenagers’ explanations of bullying. Child Youth Care Forum. 2012;41(4): 327–42.) prevailing where violence, migration, and unsolved social problems exist (1616 Bickmore K. Teaching conflict and conflict resolution in school. (Extra-) curricular considerations. Presented at Connections ´97 International Social Studies Conference, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, July 1997. Available from: http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED421587.pdf Accessed on 30 January 2017.
http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED4215...
). In this context, this study examines bullying prevalence among students from different educational levels in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, in Mexico, a city with high violence and migration.

MATERIALS AND METHODS

This was a cross-sectional, observational study conducted in 2012–2014 using a self-reporting questionnaire known as the Bullying-Mexican (Bull-M), previously validated among the study population (1717 Ramos-Jiménez A, Wall-Medrano A, Esparza-Villar O, Hernández-Torres RP. Design and validation of a self-administered test to assess bullying (Bull-M) in high school Mexicans: a pilot study. BMC Public Health. 2013;13(1):334. DOI: 10.1186/1471-2458-13-334
https://doi.org/10.1186/1471-2458-13-334...
).

Participants

The study sample of 2 347 students from 10–27 years of age was representative of the metropolitan area of Ciudad Juárez. To obtain a random and appropriate sampling that included both genders and all academic grade levels, the study employed a probabilistic multistage cluster sampling method.

Participants were selected from the 400 000 students enrolled in grade 5–university level at all 611 public schools in Ciudad Juárez in 2012: 460 elementary schools, 106 junior highs, 33 high schools, and 12 universities (1818 Sistema Nacional de Información Estadística Educativa. SEP México. Available from: www.snie.sep.gob.mx Accessed on 30 January 2017
www.snie.sep.gob.mx...
). Equal numbers of male and female participants were chosen from each academic level and school grade (stratified). Students below grade 5 were excluded as being too young to fully understand the questions.

The sample was taken considering an alpha of 0.01 with 2.5% accuracy and a theoretical bullying prevalence of 50%, in the equation:

n = N Z a / 2 2 P ( 1 P ) ( N 1 ) e 2 + Z a / 2 2 P ( 1 P )

Responder efficiency was 100%, i.e., if a student was not in the classroom at the time of the test, the next on the list occupied his/her place until the required sample size was obtained.

Procedures

Students interviewed were those at school on the day that the Bull-M questionnaire was applied in the classroom by an interviewer (1717 Ramos-Jiménez A, Wall-Medrano A, Esparza-Villar O, Hernández-Torres RP. Design and validation of a self-administered test to assess bullying (Bull-M) in high school Mexicans: a pilot study. BMC Public Health. 2013;13(1):334. DOI: 10.1186/1471-2458-13-334
https://doi.org/10.1186/1471-2458-13-334...
). A total of 1 162 girls and 1 185 boys from four educational levels participated: 1 110 students from 17 elementary schools in grades 5–6 (10–11 years of age); 560 students from six junior high schools in grades 7–9 (12–15 years of age); 360 students from six high schools in grades 10–12 (15–18 years of age), and 317 students from one university in semesters 1–9 (19–27 years of age).

Bullying prevalence was assessed using the previously validated Bull-M test (1717 Ramos-Jiménez A, Wall-Medrano A, Esparza-Villar O, Hernández-Torres RP. Design and validation of a self-administered test to assess bullying (Bull-M) in high school Mexicans: a pilot study. BMC Public Health. 2013;13(1):334. DOI: 10.1186/1471-2458-13-334
https://doi.org/10.1186/1471-2458-13-334...
): Content validity = 0.93; Cronbach’s α = 0.75; Kaiser–Meyer–Olkin = 0.77. The test included 10 questions that employed a Likert-type scale, i.e., each item offered five options grouped in three factors (victim’s role: questions 1–5; aggressor’s role: questions 6–9; general health status: question 10). This questionnaire design enables respondents to anonymously record the prevalence, frequency, and type of bullying that the student might be facing or perpetrating.

Interviewers were trained in questionnaire application. Participants were asked to complete all of the questions in 20 minutes; no questionnaires were incomplete. The questionnaire was administered only when the interviewer was present. Groups comprised up to 30 students.

Statistics

The prevalence and frequency of bullying (never, rarely, sometimes, often, every day) were analyzed with descriptive statistics. The “sometimes” frequency was used as a cut-off point to determine the prevalence of bullying among the students. The statistical difference between boys and girls was assessed using the chi-square test (χ2), while associations between frequency and academic level were determined by correspondence analysis and the Spearman Rho correlation (R). A multinomial logistic regression was performed to analyze whether gender and academic level acted independently in the frequency of bullying.

Ethics

Written informed consent was obtained from the school administrators, the participants, and from their parents for those under 18 years of age. If consent was withheld by any student or school, an alternate was randomly selected from the stratus (academic level and grade). The protocol was approved by the schools’ authorities and by the Ethics Committee of the Universidad Autónoma de Ciudad Juárez (Chihuahua, Mexico).

RESULTS

As shown in Table 1, about 38% of males and 47% of females reported participating in or suffering from bullying, with a prevalence of 43% that was higher in males (χ2 = 19.2; P < 0.001). In addition, both gender and academic level explained 5.9% in variance with respect to the prevalence of bullying (Nagelkerke Pseudo R2 = 0.059; P < 0.001). Male and female victims, including those who were also bullies, represented 29.7%; and male and female bullies, including those who were also victims, represented 34.2% of the total sample.

TABLE 1
Prevalence of bullying and victimization, by gender, among 2 347 public school students in grades 5 to university (10–27 years of age) in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, 2012–2014

Prevalence was found to be different among academic levels (P < 0.001) (Table 2), observing a total decrease from 52.7% in elementary to 28% in university. Moreover, whereas victims diminished (R = -0.99; P < 0.001), bullies increased (R = 0.80; P < 0.01) according to academic level. However, among university students, the result was the inverse (R = 0.65 and 0.93), with a total increase from 13.3%–50% from the beginning to the end of the students’ university studies (Table 3). The most prevalent types of bullying were mockery and social exclusion, while the least prevalent were threats and corporeal punishment (Table 4).

TABLE 2
Prevalence of involvement in bullying and victimization by academic level in students (n = 2 347; 1 162 females; 1 185 males) in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, 2012–2014
TABLE 3
Prevalence of involvement in bullying and victimization among university students (n = 317), Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, 2012 – 2014
TABLE 4
Prevalence (%) of types of bullying in descending order, among 1 347 students (n = 1 347; 1 162 females and 1 185 males) from 10–27 years of age in the public schools of Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, 2012–2014

DISCUSSION

This work investigates bullying prevalence and modifications among students of four educational levels in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, a border city with high rates of violence, migration, criminality, and political and police corruption. In 2006, Ciudad Juárez was considered to be the most dangerous city in the world (1919 Rosen, JD, Martínez, RZ. La guerra contra el narcotráfico en México: una guerra perdida. Rev Reflexiones. 2015;94(1):153–68., 2020 Secretaría de Gobernación. 2º Informe de víctimas de homicidio, secuestro y extorsión 2014. Corte Informativo: 19/06/2015. Available from: http://secretariadoejecutivo.gob.mx/docs/pdfs/victimas/Victimas2014_05201.pdf Accessed on 30 January 2017
http://secretariadoejecutivo.gob.mx/docs...
). Coupled with corruption and the limitations of the local and federal governments, children and youth become engaged in violence and criminal actions (1919 Rosen, JD, Martínez, RZ. La guerra contra el narcotráfico en México: una guerra perdida. Rev Reflexiones. 2015;94(1):153–68.2121 Rojas E, Fleiz C, Villatoro J, Gutiérrez MDL, Icaza MM, Elena M. Tendencias del consumo de drogas de 1998 a 2005 en tres ciudades de la zona norte de México: Ciudad Juárez, Monterrey y Tijuana. Salud Ment. 2009;32(1):13–9.), which increase the prevalence of bullying (66 Finkelhor D, Turner H, Hamby S, Ormrod R. Polyvictimization: children’s exposure to multiple types of violence, crime, and abuse. Free Inq Creativ Sociol. 2014;39(2):24–34., 99 Nansel TR, Overpeck M, Pilla RS, Ruan WJ, Simons-Morton B, Scheidt P. Bullying behaviors among US youth: prevalence and association with psychosocial adjustment. JAMA. 2001;285(16):2094–100., 1313 Romaní F, Gutiérrez C, Lama M. Auto-reporte de agresividad escolar y factores asociados en escolares peruanos de educación secundaria. Rev Peru Epidemiol. 2011;15(2):118–25.). Considering that “rarely” reporting bullying is not bullying, we found a prevalence of 43%, including victims and bullies; this is among the highest prevalence rates reported by epidemiological surveys and probabilistic studies (1212 Craig W, Harel-Fisch Y, Fogel-Grinvald H, Dostaler S, Hetland J, Simons-Morton B, et al. A cross-national profile of bullying and victimization among adolescents in 40 countries. Int J Public Health. 2009;54(2): 216–24., 2222 Guerrero-Gutiérrez E. Security, drugs and violence in Mexico: a survey. Proceedings of the 7th North American Forum, Washington DC, 6–8 October 2011. Available from: https://cddrl.fsi.stanford.edu/sites/default/files/evnts/media/NAF_2011_EG_(Final).pdf Accessed on 30 January 2017.
https://cddrl.fsi.stanford.edu/sites/def...
2525 Jansen PW, Verlinden M, Dommisse-van Berkel A, Mieloo C, van der Ende J, Veenstra R, et al. Prevalence of bullying and victimization among children in early elementary school: do family and school neighborhood socioeconomic status matter? BMC Public Health. 2012;12(1):494. DOI: 10.1186/1471-2458-12-494.
https://doi.org/10.1186/1471-2458-12-494...
). In this regard, high bullying prevalence a has been reported in the United States (40%–71%) (1414 Williams KR, Guerra NG. Prevalence and predictors of Internet bullying. J Adoles Health. 2007;41(6):S14–21., 2626 Wang J, Iannotti RJ, Nansel TR. School bullying among adolescents in the United States: Physical, verbal, relational, and cyber. J Adoles Health. 2009;45(4):368–75.), India (60%) (2323 Ramya SG, Kulkarni ML. Bullying among school children: prevalence and association with common symptoms in childhood. Indian J Pediatr. 2011;78(3):307–10.), and Korea (40%) (2424 Kim YS, Koh YJ, Leventhal BL. Prevalence of school bullying in Korean middle-school students. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2004;158(8):737–41.); moderate prevalence in the Netherlands (33%) (2525 Jansen PW, Verlinden M, Dommisse-van Berkel A, Mieloo C, van der Ende J, Veenstra R, et al. Prevalence of bullying and victimization among children in early elementary school: do family and school neighborhood socioeconomic status matter? BMC Public Health. 2012;12(1):494. DOI: 10.1186/1471-2458-12-494.
https://doi.org/10.1186/1471-2458-12-494...
); and lower prevalence in Brazil (8.5%) (2727 Rech RR, Halpern R, Tedesco A, Santos DF. Prevalence and characteristics of victims and perpetrators of bullying. J Pediatr (Rio J). 2013;89(2):164–70.) and Taiwan (11%) (2828 Chen LM, Cheng YY. Prevalence of school bullying among secondary students in Taiwan: measurements with and without a specific definition of bullying. Sch Psychol Int. 2013;34(6):707–20.). In the rest of Latin America, a report revealed a 17%–39% prevalence (2929 McClanahan M, McCoy SM, Jacobsen KH. Forms of bullying reported by middle-school students in Latin America and the Caribbean. Adv Sch Ment Health Promot. (Ahead-of-print). 2014;1–14.). In Mexico, the 2006 National Survey for Health and Nutrition found bullying prevalence to be 24.7% among youth 10–19 years of age (3030 Encuesta Nacional de Salud y Nutrición 2006. Instituto Nacional de Salud Pública. Available at: http://ensanut.insp.mx/informes/ensanut2006.pdf Accessed on 22 December 2014.
http://ensanut.insp.mx/informes/ensanut2...
); this increased to 30% in 2012 (3131 Encuesta Nacional de Salud y Nutrición. Resultados nacionales 2012. Instituto Nacional de Salud Pública. Available from: http://ensanut.insp.mx/informes/ENSANUT2012ResultadosNacionales.pdf Accessed on 22 December 2014.
http://ensanut.insp.mx/informes/ENSANUT2...
). Prevalence of bullying in Ciudad Juárez is much higher than it is in the rest of the country, suggesting urgent intervention programs are needed.

Because bullying gives rise to negative effects on an individual’s social health, several countries have studied this phenomenon in their populations (88 Albóres-Gallo L, Sauceda-García JM, Ruiz-Velasco S, Roque-Santiago E. Bullying and its association with psychiatric disorders in a Mexican students sample. Salud Publica Mex. 2011;53:220–7., 2323 Ramya SG, Kulkarni ML. Bullying among school children: prevalence and association with common symptoms in childhood. Indian J Pediatr. 2011;78(3):307–10., 2424 Kim YS, Koh YJ, Leventhal BL. Prevalence of school bullying in Korean middle-school students. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2004;158(8):737–41., 2828 Chen LM, Cheng YY. Prevalence of school bullying among secondary students in Taiwan: measurements with and without a specific definition of bullying. Sch Psychol Int. 2013;34(6):707–20., 2929 McClanahan M, McCoy SM, Jacobsen KH. Forms of bullying reported by middle-school students in Latin America and the Caribbean. Adv Sch Ment Health Promot. (Ahead-of-print). 2014;1–14.). In addition, it is known that bullying increases in highly marginalized populations and highly violent zones, and appears to be associated with racial aspects (99 Nansel TR, Overpeck M, Pilla RS, Ruan WJ, Simons-Morton B, Scheidt P. Bullying behaviors among US youth: prevalence and association with psychosocial adjustment. JAMA. 2001;285(16):2094–100., 2525 Jansen PW, Verlinden M, Dommisse-van Berkel A, Mieloo C, van der Ende J, Veenstra R, et al. Prevalence of bullying and victimization among children in early elementary school: do family and school neighborhood socioeconomic status matter? BMC Public Health. 2012;12(1):494. DOI: 10.1186/1471-2458-12-494.
https://doi.org/10.1186/1471-2458-12-494...
). In this sense, northern Mexico is an area of high migration and is a transport route for addictive substances into the United States; individuals failing to enter the United States often stay in the border zone (2121 Rojas E, Fleiz C, Villatoro J, Gutiérrez MDL, Icaza MM, Elena M. Tendencias del consumo de drogas de 1998 a 2005 en tres ciudades de la zona norte de México: Ciudad Juárez, Monterrey y Tijuana. Salud Ment. 2009;32(1):13–9.), adding to the violence that is already higher here than in any other part of Mexico (3232 Arellano FM, Torres MER, Parra JEC. Muertes de mujeres y violencia social en tres entidades de la frontera norte de México. Región y Sociedad. 2014;4:45–76.). Ciudad Juárez, as a border city, has high migration, and in the last decade, the dramatic increase in violence, could be affecting school health and bullying (66 Finkelhor D, Turner H, Hamby S, Ormrod R. Polyvictimization: children’s exposure to multiple types of violence, crime, and abuse. Free Inq Creativ Sociol. 2014;39(2):24–34., 77 Wolke D, Copeland WE, Angold A, Costello EJ: Impact of bullying in childhood on adult health, wealth, crime, and social outcomes. Psychol Sci. 2013;24(10):1958–70., 1111 Pottie K, Dahal G, Georgiades K, Premji K, Hassan G. Do first generation immigrant adolescents face higher rates of bullying, violence and suicidal behaviours than do third generation and native born? J Immigr Minor Health. 2015;17:1557–66.).

Bullying prevalence that is higher among boys than girls is a common phenomenon (3333 Stassen K. Update on bullying at school: science forgotten? Dev Rev. 2007;27(1):90–126.); however, we found a general decrease from 52.7% to 28.0%, which appears to be associated with academic grade, from elementary school to university. This result indicates that a diminishing prevalence of bullying is related to age and/or academic grade (3333 Stassen K. Update on bullying at school: science forgotten? Dev Rev. 2007;27(1):90–126.). In a similar manner, Brame and colleagues (3434 Brame B, Nagin DS, Tremblay RE. Developmental trajectories of physical aggression from school entry to late adolescence. J Child Psychol Psyc. 2001;42:503–12.) found that bullying among children tends to diminish with age (from 6–13 years of age), but it increases and even becomes more violent during adolescence (14–16 years of age). On the other hand, Curwen and colleagues (3535 Curwen T, McNichol JS, Sharpe GW. The progression of bullying from elementary school to university. IJHSS. 2011;1(13):47–54.) reported that from high school to university, verbal and physical bullying diminishes, although it continues to occur in a passive, social form, such as mockery and rejection.

In contrast, our study found an increase in prevalence (from 13.3% to 50%), especially in bullies and bully-victims (from 0%–7% to 20%–30%), as well as in frequency (from “rarely” to “sometimes” and “often”) at the university level (data not shown). A possible explanation for this increase is that along with the challenges of co-existence at the university, issues of trust and difficulties/stress among students also take place (3636 Chang E, Eddins-Folensbee F, Coverdale J. Survey of the prevalence of burnout, stress, depression, and the use of supports by medical students at one school. Acad Psychiatry. 2012;36(3):177–82., 3737 Kochel KP, Ladd GW, Rudolph KD. Longitudinal associations among youth depressive symptoms, peer victimization, and low peer acceptance: an interpersonal process perspective. Child Dev. 2012;83(2):​637–50.). In our studied population, mainly among university students, mockery, social exclusion, and blame were the most prevalent types of bullying; however, threats and punishments were the least prevalent types of bullying, and beating moved from 9th place among freshmen in the university to 3rd place among seniors (data not shown). These data indicate an increase in the violence level among these students, already observed in high schools (3434 Brame B, Nagin DS, Tremblay RE. Developmental trajectories of physical aggression from school entry to late adolescence. J Child Psychol Psyc. 2001;42:503–12.), but opposite to that observed in other works (3333 Stassen K. Update on bullying at school: science forgotten? Dev Rev. 2007;27(1):90–126., 3535 Curwen T, McNichol JS, Sharpe GW. The progression of bullying from elementary school to university. IJHSS. 2011;1(13):47–54.). On the other hand, Jansen and colleagues (2525 Jansen PW, Verlinden M, Dommisse-van Berkel A, Mieloo C, van der Ende J, Veenstra R, et al. Prevalence of bullying and victimization among children in early elementary school: do family and school neighborhood socioeconomic status matter? BMC Public Health. 2012;12(1):494. DOI: 10.1186/1471-2458-12-494.
https://doi.org/10.1186/1471-2458-12-494...
), when evaluating bullying in the Netherlands elementary schools, found a higher prevalence than ours, the order being bullies (17%), bullies-victims (13%), and only victims (4%).

The difference found in this study compared with the reported data may reflect several factors (3838 Nielsen MB, Matthiesen SB, Einarsen S. The impact of methodological moderators on prevalence rates of workplace bullying. A meta-analysis. J Occup Organ Psychol. 2010;83(4):955–79.), among which may be the following:

  1. Methodological differences

    1. validity and trust in the applied instruments

    2. type of instrument applied (direct or indirect observation, questionnaire, interview, etc.)

    3. complexity in instrument design and structure

    4. form of question (open, closed)

    5. bias in the questions

    6. order and number of questions

  2. Design and site of instrument application

    1. permitting anonymity or not

    2. individual or grouped

    3. classroom, schoolyard, or home

  3. Beliefs about violence

  4. Individual, social, and cultural differences

    1. ethnicity

    2. family socioeconomic status

    3. gender, age, schooling

    4. urban or rural settings

    5. religion

  5. Differences due to time (because bullying and its perception can be modified over time).

The social problems and violence observed in the streets appear to affect healthy relationships among students, at least in this border city. This speaks to a possible reconsideration of school education in cities with similar characteristics, i.e., not only to promote knowledge, skills, and psychomotor development in schools, but also to strengthen humanitarian activities that foster empathy and a collaborative environment among students.

Limitations

Because the structure of bullying is multifactorial and because questionnaires to detect it are subjective, we recommend applying more than one instrument to determine its prevalence, and then validating the convergence of information (3939 Shaw T, Dooley JJ, Cross D, Zubrick SR, Waters S. The Forms of Bullying Scale (FBS): validity and reliability estimates for a measure of bullying victimization and perpetration in adolescence. Psychol Assess. 2013;25(4):1045–57.). In the current case, we evaluated presence, frequency, and type of bullying with only the Bull-M instrument. In addition, at the university level, we evaluated bullying in only one, the largest, university. Lastly, it could be important to apply the Bull-M in student populations across several cities to confirm or negate the assertions made in the present study.

Conclusion

Bullying prevalence in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, is among the highest reported to date. Prevalence and frequency were found to be slightly higher in male than in female students. Both prevalence and frequency of bullying diminished with age and academic grade; however, violence and social insecurity have affected the city’s school environment, making it aggressive and insecure. In the absence of programs that promote human values, school bullying is a natural consequence. It is necessary to implement programs that modify aggressive behaviors and strengthen effective communication and collaboration among students.

Acknowledgements

The authors wish to acknowledge the support and funding of the Programa de Mejoramiento del Profesorado of the Secretariat for Public Education (Mexico City, Mexico). Rafael Villalobos-Molina was a visiting professor at the Universidad Autónoma de Ciudad Juárez (Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico) and was supported in part by Planeación, Ambientación y Proyectos S.A. (Mexico City, Mexico) and Department of the Faculty at the Universidad Autónoma de Ciudad Juárez.

Conflict of interests

None declared.

Disclaimer

Authors hold sole responsibility for the views expressed in the manuscript, which may not necessarily reflect the opinion or policy of the RPSP/PAJPH and/or PAHO.

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Publication Dates

  • Publication in this collection
    25 May 2017

History

  • Received
    02 Feb 2016
  • Accepted
    01 Aug 2016
Organización Panamericana de la Salud Washington - Washington - United States
E-mail: contacto_rpsp@paho.org