Skip to main content Accessibility help

Bullying Prevalence in Students With Autism Spectrum Disorder*

  • Marilyn Campbell (a1), Yoon-Suk Hwang (a2), Chrystal Whiteford (a1), Julie Dillon-Wallace (a1), Jill Ashburner (a3), Beth Saggers (a1) and Suzanne Carrington (a1)...


All forms of bullying, physical, verbal, social, and cyber, are prevalent among youth worldwide. An especially vulnerable population for involvement in bullying is students with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Although there are some studies that have investigated bullying in these students, many of these are beset by methodological issues. We surveyed 104 students with ASD on their bullying experiences in all 4 forms of bullying and examined their roles as victim, perpetrator, and bully-victim, comparing them with a group of typically developing students matched for age and gender. It was found that students with ASD reported significantly more traditional victimisation (physical, verbal, and social) than their typically developing peers. Cyberbullying victimisation was similar for the 2 groups. There were no differences between the groups on traditional bullying perpetration; however, typically developing students reported more cyberbullying perpetration behaviours. Implications for prevention and intervention are discussed.


Corresponding author

Correspondence: Professor Marilyn Campbell, Queensland University of Technology, Victoria Park Road, Kelvin Grove, Qld 4059, Australia. Email:


Hide All

This manuscript was accepted under the Editorship of Michael Arthur-Kelly.



Hide All
American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th ed., text rev.). Washington, DC: Author.
Arseneault, L., Bowes, L., & Shakoor, S. (2010). Bullying victimization in youths and mental health problems: ‘Much ado about nothing’? Psychological Medicine, 40, 717729. doi:10.1017/S0033291709991383
Baron-Cohen, S., & Wheelwright, S. (2003). The Friendship Questionnaire: An investigation of adults with Asperger syndrome or high-functioning autism, and normal sex differences. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 33, 509517. doi:10.1023/A:1025879411971
Bauminger, N., & Karasi, C. (2000). Loneliness and friendship in high-functioning children with autism. Child Development, 71, 447456. doi:10.1111/1467-8624.00156
Beaty, L. A., & Alexeyev, E. B. (2008). The problem of school bullies: What the research tells us. Adolescence, 43 (169), 111.
Bitsika, V., & Sharpley, C. F. (2014). Understanding, experiences, and reactions to bullying experiences in boys with an autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Developmental and Physical Disabilities, 26, 747761. doi:10.1007/s10882-014-9393-1
Bowes, L., Maughan, B., Ball, H., Shakoor, S., Ouellet-Morin, I., Caspi, A., . . . & Arseneault, L. (2013). Chronic bullying victimization across school transitions: The role of genetic and environmental influences. Development and Psychopathology, 25, 333346. doi:10.1017/S0954579412001095
Brunstein Klomek, A., Marrocco, F., Kleinman, M., Schonfeld, I. S., & Gould, M. S. (2007). Bullying, depression, and suicidality in adolescents. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 46, 4049. doi:10.1097/01.chi.0000242237.84925.18
Campbell, M. A., & Morgan, N. (in press). Adult's perceptions of bullying in early childhood. In Slee, P. T., Skrzypiec, G., & Cefai, C. (Eds.), Child and adolescent well-being and violence prevention in schools. London, UK: Routledge.
Campbell, M. A., Slee, P. T., Spears, B., Butler, D., & Kift, S. (2013). Do cyberbullies suffer too? Cyberbullies’ perceptions of the harm they cause to others and to their own mental health. School Psychology International, 34, 613629. doi:10.1177/0143034313479698
Campbell, M. A., Spears, B., Slee, P., Butler, D., & Kift, S. (2012). Victims’ perceptions of traditional and cyberbullying, and the psychosocial correlates of their victimisation. Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties, 17, 389401. doi:10.1080/13632752.2012.704316
Campbell, M. A., Spears, B., Slee, P., Kift, S., & Butler, D. (2011, April). The prevalence of cyberbullying in Australia. Paper presented at the 5th World Conference and IV Iberoamerican Congress on Violence in School: Investigations, Interventions, Evaluations and Public Policies, Mendoza, Argentina.
Cappadocia, M. C., Craig, W. M., & Pepler, D. (2013). Cyberbullying: Prevalence, stability, and risk factors during adolescence. Canadian Journal of School Psychology, 28, 171192. doi:10.1177/0829573513491212
Cappadocia, M. C., Weiss, J. A., & Pepler, D. (2012). Bullying experiences among children and youth with autism spectrum disorders. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 42, 266277. doi:10.1007/s10803-011-1241-x
Carter, S. (2009). Bullying of students with Asperger syndrome. Issues in Comprehensive Pediatric Nursing, 32, 145154. doi:10.1080/01460860903062782
Chen, P.-Y., & Schwartz, I. S. (2012). Bullying and victimization experiences of students with autism spectrum disorders in elementary schools. Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, 27, 200212. doi:10.1177/1088357612459556
Cook-Cottone, C., Serwacki, M., Guyker, W., Sodano, S., Nickerson, A., Keddie-Olka, E., & Anderson, L. (2016). The role of anxiety on the experience of peer victimization and eating disorder risk. School Mental Health, 8, 354367. doi:10.1007/s12310-016-9178-z
Cross, D., Shaw, T., Hearn, L., Epstein, M., Monks, H., Lester, L., & Thomas, L. (2009). Australian Covert Bullying Prevalence Study (ACBPS). Perth, Australia: Child Health Promotion Research Centre, Edith Cowan University.
Cross, D., Waters, S., Pearce, N., Shaw, T., Hall, M., Erceg, E., . . . Hamilton, G. (2012). The Friendly Schools Friendly Families programme: Three-year bullying behaviour outcomes in primary school children. International Journal of Educational Research, 53, 394406. doi:10.1016/j.ijer.2012.05.004
Didden, R., Scholte, R. H. J., Korzilius, H., de Moor, J. M. H., Vermeulen, A., . . . Lancioni, G. E. (2009). Cyberbullying among students with intellectual and developmental disability in special education settings. Developmental Neurorehabilitation, 12, 146151. doi:10.1080/17518420902971356
Duarte, C., & Pinto-Gouveia, J. (2017). Can self-reassurance buffer against the impact of bullying? Effects on body shame and disordered eating in adolescence. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 26, 9981006. doi:10.1007/s10826-016-0624-1
Due, P., Holstein, B. E., Lynch, J., Diderichsen, F., Gabhain, S. N., Scheidt, P., . . . The Health Behaviour in School-Aged Children Bullying Working Group. (2005). Bullying and symptoms among school-aged children: International comparative cross sectional study in 28 countries. European Journal of Public Health, 15, 128132. doi:10.1093/eurpub/cki105
Espelage, D. L., Van Ryzin, M. J., & Holt, M. K. (2017). Trajectories of bully perpetration across early adolescence: Static risk factors, dynamic covariates, and longitudinal outcomes. Psychology of Violence. Advance online publication. doi:10.1037/vio0000095
Field, A. (2009). Discovering statistics using SPSS (3rd ed.). London, UK: Sage.
Frith, U., & Hill, E. (2004). Autism: Mind and brain. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Gazelle, H., & Ladd, G. W. (2003). Anxious solitude and peer exclusion: A diathesis-stress model of internalizing trajectories in childhood. Child Development, 74, 257278. doi:10.1111/1467-8624.00534
Gladden, R. M., Vivolo-Kantor, A. M., Hamburger, M. E., & Lumpkin, C. D. (2014). Bullying surveillance among youths: Uniform definitions for public health and recommended data elements, Version 1.0. Atlanta, GA: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Department of Education.
Goodman, R. (1997). The Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire: A research note. The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 38, 581586. doi:10.1111/j.1469-7610.1997.tb01545.x
Haq, I., & Le Couteur, A. (2004). Autism spectrum disorder. Medicine, 32, 6163. doi:10.1383/medc.
Hebron, J., & Humphrey, N. (2014). Exposure to bullying among students with autism spectrum conditions: A multi-informant analysis of risk and protective factors. Autism, 18, 618630. doi:10.1177/1362361313495965
Hemphill, S. A., Kotevski, A., Herrenkohl, T. I., Bond, L., Kim, M. J., Toumbourou, J. W., & Catalano, R. F. (2011). Longitudinal consequences of adolescent bullying perpetration and victimisation: A study of students in Victoria, Australia. Criminal Behaviour and Mental Health, 21, 107116. doi:10.1002/cbm.802
Hemphill, S. A., Tollit, M., & Kotevski, A. (2012). Rates of bullying perpetration and victimisation: A longitudinal study of secondary school students in Victoria, Australia. Pastoral Care in Education, 30, 99112. doi:10.1080/02643944.2012.679953
Hooijer, J., & Campbell, M. A. (under review). Teachers’ and parents’ understanding of traditional and cyberbullying. Journal of School Violence.
Horowitz, J. A., Vessey, J. A., Carlson, K. L., Bradley, J. F., Montoya, C., McCullough, B., & David, J. (2004). Teasing and bullying experiences of middle school students. Journal of the American Psychiatric Nurses Association, 10, 165172. doi:10.1177/1078390304267862
Houbre, B., Tarquinio, C., Thuillier, I., & Hergott, E. (2006). Bullying among students and its consequences on health. European Journal of Psychology of Education, 21, 183208. doi:10.1007/BF03173576
Howlin, P. (2004). Autism and Asperger syndrome: Preparing for adulthood (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Routledge.
Humphrey, N., & Symes, W. (2011). Peer interaction patterns among adolescents with autistic spectrum disorders (ASDs) in mainstream school settings. Autism, 15, 397419. doi:10.1177/1362361310387804
Hwang, Y.-S., Dillon-Wallace, J., Saggers, B., Campbell, M. A., Ashburner, J., Carrington, S., & Hand, K. (under review). Students with autism spectrum disorders’ understanding of face-to-face and cyberbullying. International Journal of Inclusive Education.
Isolan, L., Salum, G. A., Osowski, A. T., Zottis, G. H., & Manfro, G. G. (2013). Victims and bully-victims but not bullies are groups associated with anxiety symptomatology among Brazilian children and adolescents. European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 22, 641648. doi:10.1007/s00787-013-0412-z
Kelley, E., Paul, J. J., Fein, D., & Naigles, L. R. (2006). Residual language deficits in optimal outcome children with a history of autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 36, 807828. doi:10.1007/s10803-006-0111-4
Kloosterman, P. H., Kelley, E. A., Craig, W. M., Parker, J. D. A., & Javier, C. (2013). Types and experiences of bullying in adolescents with an autism spectrum disorder. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 7, 824832. doi:10.1016/j.rasd.2013.02.013
Kowalski, R. M., & Fedina, C. (2011). Cyber bullying in ADHD and Asperger syndrome populations. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 5, 12011208. doi:10.1016/j.rasd.2011.01.007
Kuo, M. H., Orsmond, G. I., Coster, W. J., & Cohn, E. S. (2014). Media use among adolescents with autism spectrum disorder. Autism, 18, 914923. doi:10.1177/1362361313497832
Kupper, L. L., Karon, J. M., Kleinbaum, D. G., Morgenstern, H., & Lewis, D. K. (1981). Matching in epidemiologic studies: Validity and efficiency considerations. Biometrics, 37, 271291. doi:10.2307/2530417
Little, L. (2002). Middle-class mothers’ perceptions of peer and sibling victimization among children with Asperger's syndrome and nonverbal learning disorders. Issues in Comprehensive Pediatric Nursing, 25 (1), 4357. doi:10.1080/014608602753504847
Loveland, K. A., Pearson, D. A., Tunali-Kotoski, B., Ortegon, J., & Cullen Gibbs, M. (2001). Judgments of social appropriateness by children and adolescents with autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 31, 367376. doi:10.1023/A:1010608518060
Matson, J. L., & Nebel-Schwalm, M. (2007). Assessing challenging behaviors in children with autism spectrum disorders: A review. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 28, 567579. doi:10.1016/j.ridd.2006.08.001
Molcho, M., Craig, W., Due, P., Pickett, W., Harel-Fisch, Y., Overpeck, M., & the HBSC Bullying Writing Group. (2009). Cross-national time trends in bullying behaviour 1994–2006: Findings from Europe and North America. International Journal of Public Health, 54, S225–S234. doi:10.1007/s00038-009-5414-8
Montes, G., & Halterman, J. S. (2007). Bullying among children with autism and the influence of comorbidity with ADHD: A population-based study. Ambulatory Pediatrics, 7, 253257. doi:10.1016/j.ambp.2007.02.003
Olweus, D. (1993). Bullying at school: What we know and what we can do. Oxford, UK: Blackwell.
Owens, L., Skrzypiec, G., & Wadham, B. (2011). Thinking patterns, anti-social behaviour and bullying: Implications for practice. In Shute, R. H., Slee, P. T., Murray-Harvey, R., & Dix, K. L. (Eds.), Mental health and wellbeing: Educational perspectives (pp. 117128). Adelaide, Australia: Shannon Research Press.
Perren, S., & Hornung, R. (2005). Bullying and delinquency in adolescence: Victims’ and perpetrators’ family and peer relations. Swiss Journal of Psychology, 64, 5164. doi:10.1024/1421-0185.64.1.51
Polanin, J. R., Espelage, D. L., & Pigott, T. D. (2012). A meta-analysis of school-based bullying prevention programs’ effects on bystander intervention behavior. School Psychology Review, 41, 4765.
Rieffe, C., Camodeca, M., Pouw, L. B. C., Lange, A. M. C., & Stockmann, L. (2012). Don't anger me! Bullying, victimization, and emotion dysregulation in young adolescents with ASD. European Journal of Developmental Psychology, 9, 351370. doi:10.1080/17405629.2012.680302
Rigby, K., & Griffiths, C. (in press). Interventions addressing traditional school-based bullying. In Campbell, M. A. & Bauman, S. (Eds.), Reducing cyberbullying in schools: International evidence-based best practices. New York, NY: Elsevier.
Rose, C. A., & Espelage, D. L. (2012). Risk and protective factors associated with the bullying involvement of students with emotional and behavioral disorders. Behavioral Disorders, 37, 133148.
Rose, C. A., Espelage, D. L., & Monda-Amaya, L. E. (2009). Bullying and victimisation rates among students in general and special education: A comparative analysis. Educational Psychology, 29, 761776. doi:10.1080/01443410903254864
Rosenberg, R. E., Kaufmann, W. E., Law, J. K., & Law, P. A. (2011). Parent report of community psychiatric comorbid diagnoses in autism spectrum disorders. Autism Research and Treatment, 2011, 110. doi:10.1155/2011/405849
Rothman, J. K., & Greenland, S. (1998). Modern epidemiology (2nd ed.). Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.
Rowley, E., Chandler, S., Baird, G., Simonoff, E., Pickles, A., Loucas, T., & Charman, T. (2012). The experience of friendship, victimization and bullying in children with an autism spectrum disorder: Associations with child characteristics and school placement. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 6, 11261134. doi:10.1016/j.rasd.2012.03.004
Saracino, J., Nosewothy, J., Steiman, M., Reisinger, L., & Fombonne, E. (2010). Diagnostic and assessment issues in autism surveillance and prevalence. Journal of Developmental and Physical Disabilities, 22, 317330. doi:10.1007/s10882-010-9205-1
Sofronoff, K., Dark, E., & Stone, V. (2011). Social vulnerability and bullying in children with Asperger syndrome. Autism, 15, 355372. doi:10.1177/1362361310365070
Spears, B., Keeley, M., Bates, S., & Katz, I. (2014). Research on youth exposure to, and management of, cyberbullying incidents in Australia. Part A: Literature review on the estimated prevalence of cyberbullying involving Australian minors (SPRC Report 9/2014). Sydney, Australia: Social Policy Research Centre, UNSW Australia.
Sreckovic, M. A., Brunsting, N. C., & Able, H. (2014). Victimization of student with autism spectrum disorder: A review of prevalence and risk factors. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 8, 11551172. doi:10.1016/j.rasd.2014.06.004
Stassen Berger, K. (2007). Update on bullying at school: Science forgotten? Developmental Review, 27, 90126. doi:10.1016/j.dr.2006.08.002
Storch, E. A., Larson, M. J., Ehrenreich-May, J., Arnold, E. B., Jones, A. M., Renno, P., . . . Wood, J. J. (2012). Peer victimization in youth with autism spectrum disorders and co-occurring anxiety: Relations with psychopathology and loneliness. Journal of Developmental and Physical Disabilities, 24, 575590. doi:10.1007/s10882-012-9290-4
Swearer, S. M. (2013). Treating bullying behaviors among youth. In Koocher, G. P., Norcross, J. C., & Greene, B. A. (Eds.), Psychologists’ desk reference (3rd ed., pp. 391394). Oxford, England: Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/med:psych/9780199845491.003.0081
Taylor, B., Jick, H., & MacLaughlin, D. (2013). Prevalence and incidence rates of autism in the UK: Time trend from 2004–2010 in children aged 8 years. British Medical Journal Open, 3, 16. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2013-003219
Twyman, K. A., Saylor, C. F., Saia, D., Macias, M. M., Taylor, L. A., & Spratt, E. (2010). Bullying and ostracism experiences in children with special health care needs. Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, 31, 18. doi:10.1097/DBP.0b013e3181c828c8
van Roekel, E., Scholte, R. H. J., & Didden, R. (2010). Bullying among adolescents with autism spectrum disorders: Prevalence and perception. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 40, 6373. doi:10.1007/s10803-009-0832-2
Waasdorp, T. E., Bradshaw, C. P., & Leaf, P. J. (2012). The impact of schoolwide positive behavioral interventions and supports on bullying and peer rejection: A randomized controlled effectiveness trial. Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, 166, 149156. doi:10.1001/archpediatrics.2011.755
Wainscot, J. J., Naylor, P., Sutcliffe, P., Tantam, D., & Williams, J. V. (2008). Relationship with peers and use of the school environment of mainstream secondary school pupils with Asperger Syndrome (high-functioning autism): A case-control study. International Journal of Psychology and Psychological Therapy, 8, 2538.
Wang, J., Nansel, T. R., & Iannotti, R. J. (2011). Cyber and traditional bullying: Differential association with depression. Journal of Adolescent Health, 48, 415417. doi:10.1016/j.jadohealth.2010.07.012
Wolke, D., Copeland, W. E., Angold, A., & Costello, E. J. (2013). Impact of bullying in childhood on adult health, wealth, crime, and social outcomes. Psychological Science, 24, 19581970. doi:10.1177/0956797613481608
Yang, A., & Salmivalli, C. (2015). Effectiveness of the KiVa antibullying programme on bully-victims, bullies and victims. Educational Research, 57, 8090. doi:10.1080/00131881.2014.983724
Ybarra, M. L., Boyd, D., Korchmaros, J. D., & Oppenheim, J. (2012). Defining and measuring cyberbullying within the larger context of bullying victimization. Journal of Adolescent Health, 51, 5358. doi:10.1016/j.jadohealth.2011.12.031
Zablotsky, B., Bradshaw, C. P., Anderson, C., & Law, P. A. (2013). The association between bullying and the psychological functioning of children with autism spectrum disorders. Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, 34, 18. doi:10.1097/DBP.0b013e31827a7c3a
Zeedyk, S. M., Rodriguez, G., Tipton, L. A., Baker, B. L., & Blacher, J. (2014). Bullying of youth with autism spectrum disorder, intellectual disability, or typical development: Victim and parent perspectives. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 8, 11731183. doi:10.1016/j.rasd.2014.06.001


Bullying Prevalence in Students With Autism Spectrum Disorder*

  • Marilyn Campbell (a1), Yoon-Suk Hwang (a2), Chrystal Whiteford (a1), Julie Dillon-Wallace (a1), Jill Ashburner (a3), Beth Saggers (a1) and Suzanne Carrington (a1)...


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed