In a recent study, one in five teens reported being the victims of bullying over the past year. A new study "Weapon-Carrying among Victims of Bullying," published in the December 2017 issue of Pediatrics (published online on Nov. 27), found that these victims were overall twice as likely to carry a weapon such as a gun or knife to school, and additional risk factors—fighting at school, being threatened/injured at school, and/or skipping school out of fear for their safety—made it incrementally more likely that teens will bring weapons to school.
Researchers examined data from the 2015 Youth Risk Behavior Survey for grades 9-12. They found 20.2% of students reported being a victim of bullying over a 12-month period and 4.1% of students reported carrying a weapon to school in the past month. When the impacts of additional risk factors were analyzed individually, the odds of weapon carrying by victims of bullying who reported skipping school out of fear for their safety, fighting at school, or being threatened/injured at school were, respectively, 3.09, 5.02, and 5.94 times greater compared to non-victims. Those teens who experienced all three additional adverse experiences were much more likely to carry weapons to school compared to non-victims (46.4% vs. 2.5%).
By contrast, victims of bullying who did not experience any of these additional risk factors were not at increased risk of carrying a weapon to school. Researchers concluded that parents, school personnel and pediatricians should be watchful for red flags such as unexplained bruises or injuries, school avoidance, and/or frequent truancy, but more research is needed to understand how bullying impacts girls and boys differently and the reasons teenagers decide to bring weapons to school.