How many friends a child has plays a big part in determining hostile behavior, the researchers said. For physical, verbal and relational abuse, kids with lots of friends are at higher risk of becoming bullies. Conversely, those with fewer friends are victims more often.
"This may reflect a need among adolescents to establish social status, especially during transition into a new group," the study said. "Friendship protects adolescents from being selected as targets of bullies."
Cyber bullying -- bullying through a computer or other communication device -- is still a small phenomenon. Researchers found that 8 percent had received harassing computer pictures or messages, and 6 percent were bullied by cell phone. More boys were cyber bullies; more girls were cyber victims.
The size of the children's social circle did not affect their involvement in electronic bullying. However, affluence seems to increase the risk, possibly because of the greater availability of computers and cell phones in wealthier families.
"There's been a lot of recent emphasis on cyber bullying, but the fact is that there is a lot less of it than in-person bullying," said Frederick Zimmerman, an associate professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, School of Public Health. "Parents can certainly help by being aware of what their kids are doing
All rights reserved