Bullying Experiences Among Korean-American Adolescents

By — Bullying Special Edition Contributor
Updated on Apr 26, 2010

Asian-American adolescents are often viewed as a model minority because overall they engage in fewer problematic behaviors compared to other groups (1 & 5). Some studies, however, have revealed higher levels of emotional distress among Asian-American youth compared to other adolescent ethnic groups (5). Regarding bullying experiences, it has been found that within an ethnically diverse adolescent sample, Asian-Americans were the most frequently bullied ethnic group (6). 

We investigated the bullying experiences of 295 Korean-American high school students who reside in New York and New Jersey areas. Bullying experiences were assessed by the Bully Survey (9) and depression by the Center for Epidemiological Studies - Depression Scale (CES-D) (8). 

Incidence of Bullying

Bullying Experiences Number of Participants Who Reported Experiences with Bullying Percentage of Participants
Being Bullied (Victim) 86 29.2%
Observing Others Being Bullied (Bystander) 220 74.6%
Bullying Others (Bully) 93 31.5%
Being Bullied and Bullying others (Bully-Victim) 47 15.9%

Among the participants, 86 (29.2%) reported being bullied, 220 (74.6%) observing others being bullied, 93 (31.5%) bullying others and 47 (15.9%) both being bullied and bullying others. 

Relationship Between Bullying Experiences and Depression

Those who reported being bullied as well as those who reported both being bullied and bullying others experienced a higher level of depression than those who were not bullied. This is consistent with the literature, which maintains that being bullied has a profound impact on the mental health outcomes of children and adolescents. Bystanders and bullies did not show clinically significant levels of depression. Being victimized appears the most important indicator of mental health outcomes associated with bullying experiences. Some of those who bullied others might have done so in self defense, leading others to perceive them as being able to defend themselves, preventing others from bullying them and keeping them from being chronically victimized. The victims appear more likely to experience hopelessness, which may lead to developing mental health issues. 

When the CES-D scores were compared to those in other studies using the same scale with Korean-American adolescents, the overall level of depression from this study is similar to those reported for Korean Americans by Oh, Koeske and Sales (7) and Kuo (4). While the overall level of depression among Korean-Americans is elevated compared to other ethnic groups (2 & 3), the level of the victims and bully-victims in our study was significantly higher than those of Korean-American adolescents in general, suggesting that they are a high-risk group within this ethnic group, which has already been shown to be vulnerable to mental distress and depression. 

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