A recent study from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development shows a significant decline in the rates of both physical and verbal bullying reported by American teenagers since 1998.

Study author Jessamyn Perlus and her colleagues conducted a series of four surveys of a nationally representative sample of students in grades 6 through 10 (averaging approximately 12,500 students per survey) over a 12-year period beginning in 1998. Students were asked about the frequency with which they had been either the perpetrator or the victim of bullying behaviors in school, such as teasing, insulting, or excluding classmates; spreading negative rumors; sexual harassment; and physical abuse. The study did not include bullying activities outside of school, such as cyberbullying.

The results of the study, published in the June 2014 issue of the American Journal of Public Health (AJPH), suggest that bullying declined steadily from nearly 14 percent of students reporting incidents in 1998 to just over 10 percent in 2010. Declines were especially strong among boys and among middle school students; smaller but still significant declines were seen among girls and high school students.

Perlus is encouraged by the findings, according to an interview with U.S. News and World Report.  “In recent years, there has been more attention to anti-bullying efforts, such as prevention programs, and responses to bullying have been incorporated into school policies,” Perlus says. “We hope that these prevention efforts, and the additional attention and awareness of the problem of bullying, may be the reason for the decline.”

To read the abstract or download the full text of the study (American Public Health Association membership required for full text), visit the AJPH Web site.