Bullying & Victimization and Asian-American Students

Myths About Asian-American Bullying and Victimization

Myth: Asian-American students are bullied far more than other ethnic groups, with 54 percent of Asian-American students reporting that they were bullied in the classroom.

Fact: Fewer Asian-American students (17 percent) reported being bullied at school than did any other ethnic groups. The 54 percent figure refers to where the bullying occurred, not the overall rate. Over half of Asian-American students who report being bullied, say it occurring in the classroom.
Myth: Asian-American students are cyberbullied far more than any other ethnic group, with 62 percent of Asian-American students reporting that they were bullied online up to twice a month.

Fact: Fewer Asian-American students (2.9 percent) reported being cyberbullied than did any other ethnic group. The 62 percent figure refers to how frequently the cyberbullying occurred among those reported being cyber-bullied, not the overall rate.

What Do We Know About Bullying and Victimization Among Asian-American Students?

“When I was a teenager, I was bullied a lot, and I felt very insecure and very scared and I didn't want to live.” — Margaret Cho

National Data

According to a According to the Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2010 report,1, 2 :

  • Fewer Asian-American students (18 percent) reported being bullied at school or cyberbullied than did white students (35 percent), African-American students (31 percent) or Latino students (28 percent). More Asian-American victims of bullying (11.1 percent) said that they were bullied because of their race than did white victims (2.8 percent), African-American victims (7.1 percent) or Latino victims (6.2 percent).

  • Like other racial minorities, more Asian-American students (11 percent) reported being frequently targeted with race-related hate words than was reported by White students (3 percent).

Racial/ethnic minorities who break stereotypes are more likely to be bullied. Asian American and Latino student athletes were more likely to be bullied, whereas sport participation was an insulating factor for White and Black students. 5

Among Asian American students, immigrant and 2nd generation students were more likely to be victimized than 3rd or later generation students. Data comes from the Education Longitudinal Study of 2002 (a nation-wide sample of over 10,000 public high school students).6

Data on nearly 750 Asian American middle and high school students from the National Longitu-dinal Study of Adolescent Health (1994-95 co-hort) suggest that 17 percent reported being violently victimized (e.g., had a gun/knife pulled on her/him, stabbed, cut or jumped) at least once in the past year.7

Notable Findings From Local Studies:
  • Among Korean-American high school students in New York and New Jersey, 31.5 percent reported being bullied and 15.9 percent reported being aggressive victims (being bullied and bullying others). These students experienced higher levels of depression.8

  • A survey of more than 1,300 6th graders in California schools with predominantly Latino or Asian-American students found that Asian-Americans were the most frequently victimized ethnic group regardless of a school's racial composition.9

  • Asian-American, Latino & African-American students at one multiethnic public school in NYC, Asian-American students described students verbal harassment (e.g., racial slurs, being mocked, teased) and physical victimization (e.g., being randomly slapped in hallways, physically threatened, punched, having possessions stolen) more than other racial groups.10

  • Chinese-American middle school students in Boston reported frequently experiencing race-based verbal and physical harassment by non-Asian peers. Harassing comments typically focused on Asian languages or accents, school performance and physical appearance. Boys more frequently reported physical harassment. Girls reported witnessing physical aggression toward Chinese-American boys.11

What Is Bullying?

Bullying is a form of violence that is likely widespread but under reported.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, 3 bullying includes repeated harmful acts and a real or perceived imbalance of power between the victim and the bully:

  • Bullying can be physical (assault, intimidation, destruction of property), verbal (name-calling, threats) and/or psychological/relational (could be physical or verbal; may include social exclusion, gossiping, rumors).

  • Bullying can occur in person or through technology (email, chat rooms, instant messaging, text messaging or images posted on websites or sent through cellular phones).4

  • A person can be a bully, a victim or both (bully-victim, sometimes called aggressive victim).

Statistics and Points to Keep in Mind

  • Asian-Americans are often missing or not available in nationwide data on school victimization, making it difficult to compare across groups and studies.

  • How researchers ask a question determines how students will respond. Asian-American middle school boys were less likely to report being a victim when asked how often they were “bullied” in the previous month, but more boys reported being a victim when asked how often someone had repeatedly tried to hurt them or make them feel bad with specific behavior such as name-calling, threatening, shoving, spreading rumors or ignoring.12

  • Differences among and within Asian ethnic groups can be more important than findings across panethnic Asian-American groups. It would be useful to pay attention to findings on specific subgroups, such as Asian-American student athletes or Vietnamese-Americans, and not just those that combine all Asian-Americans into one category.


1Robers, S., Zhang, J., and Truman, J. (2010). Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2010 (NCES 2011-002/NCJ 230812). National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Department of Education, and Bureau of Justice Statistics, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. Washington, D.C.

2DeVoe, J., & Murphy, C. (2011). Student reports of bullying and cyber-bullying: Results from the 2009 School Crime Supplement to the National Crime Victimization Survey. (PDF, 1.8MB). WEB Tables: U.S. Department of Education.

3OJP Fact Sheet October 2011

4“Understanding Bullying” 2011 (PDF, 170KB) 

5Peguero & WIlliams (2011) Racial and ethnic stereotypes and bullying victimization. Youth & Society. doi: 10.1177/0044118X11424757.

6Peguro, A. A. (2009). Victimizing the children of immigrants: Latino and Asian American student victimization. Youth & Society, 41, 186-208.

7Maffini, C. S., Wong, Y. J., & Shin, M. (2011). The potential impact of violent victimization on somatic symp-toms among Asian American adolescents: A national longitudinal study. Asian American Journal of Psychology, 2, 157-167.

8Shin, D'Antonio, Son, Kim, & Park (2011) Bullying and discrimination experiences among Korean American adolescents. Journal of Adolescence, 34, 873-883.

9Mouttapa, M., Valente, T., Gallagher, P., Rohrbach, L. A., & Unger, J. B. (2004). Social network predictors of bullying and victimization. Adolescence, 39(154), 315-335.

10Rosenbloom, S. R., & Way, N. (2004). Experiences of discrimination among African American, Asian American, and Latino adolescents in an urban high school. Youth & Society, 35, 420-451.

11Liang, B., Grossman, J. M., & Deguchi, M. (2007). Chinese American middle school youths’ experiences of discrimination and stereotyping. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 4, 187-205.

12Sawyer, A. L., Bradshaw, C. P., & O’Brennan, L. M. (2007). Examining ethnic, gender, and developmental differences in the way children report being a victim of “bullying” on self-report measures. Journal of Adolescent Health, 43, 106-114. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2007.12.011

This fact sheet is a product of the Asian American Psychological Association Leadership Fellows Program and fellow Nellie Tran, PhD, and project mentor Sumie Okazaki, PhD.