Across the country, parents with children under age 18 are most concerned about their child being bullied, with 6 in 10 expressing that concern. The next most prevalent concern – expressed by a majority of those surveyed by the Pew Research Center – is that their child will struggle with anxiety or depression. Fifty-four percent have that concern. Noting that comprehensive statistics on bullying are difficult to obtain, Pew referenced the 2013 Youth Risk Behavior Study (which covered only high-school students) finding that 19.6 percent had been bullied on school property in the previous 12 months, and 14.8 percent had been electronically bullied. In both cases, white teens and female teens were more likely to say they’d been bullied.
Connecticut’s statistics were higher than the national average in both categories.
In the 2012-13 school year, there were more than 1,400 incidents which an investigation was conducted and active bullying was concluded to have occurred, according to the state Department of Education. The most recent data posted on the department’s website indicates that “21.9% of Connecticut students had been bullied on school property. Nationwide, the rate is 19.6%. In Connecticut, the prevalence of having been bullied on school property is significantly higher among females (26.1%) than among males (17.9%). The prevalence of having been bullied on school property is significantly higher in grade 11 among students in CT (22.8%) than in the US (16.8%).”
The Youth Risk Behavior Study also indicated that 17.5% of Connecticut students had been electronically bullied. Nationwide, the rate is 14.8%, according to the study report.
Earlier this month, the parents of a high school freshman in Westport who died last month asked the local Superintendent of Schools to investigate reports that their son may have been the target of bullying and the nature of widespread social-media comments about his death among students.
In a letter to school officials, the parents wrote: “several current Staples High School students have reported observing bullying, humiliating or inappropriate behavior by one or more peer or peers toward others, and these students report that they do not know how to respond or intervene. They feel guilty and ashamed of their inaction and passive consent to the blatant behaviors. This is a critical area needed to stop these types of malevolent behaviors.”
Published reports indicate that police have found no evidence of bullying in the student's death.
The likelihood of their child facing anxiety and depression is also of great concern to parents, ranked second-highest in the survey. About one-in-ten adolescents, or around 2.6 million, have experienced major depression in the past year, according to 2013 data reported by National Institute of Mental Health, the Pew report indicated; for 7.7 percent, their depression caused severe impairment.
Depression was three times as common among teen girls as teen boys (16.2% versus 5.3%). Available data suggest that a quarter of teens have experienced some sort of anxiety disorder (such as phobias, panic disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder) at some point in their lives, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
The nationwide survey by the Pew Research Center survey also found that the nature of parental concerns varies considerably across demographic groups. The research found, for example that:
- low-income parents are more concerned about teen pregnancy and their kids getting in trouble with the law than are higher-income parents.
- Black parents are more likely than white parents to worry about their children being shot, while white parents are more likely than black parents to worry that their children will struggle with anxiety or depression.
- Hispanic parents worry more than black or white parents in all eight areas of concern, from being bullied to having problems with drugs or alcohol
Pew Research Center points out that in 2014, the rate of firearm deaths for black youths was 4.26 per 100,000, almost three times the rate for white youths and nearly four times the rate for Hispanic youths. Hospital emergency departments, from which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gathers its injury data, don’t always obtain information on race and ethnicity for their patients, the report noted. But based on the 80 percent or so of nonfatal firearm injury cases involving juveniles in 2013 for which race and ethnicity data are available, the disparity among different subpopulations was stark: 1.68 per 100,000 for white youths, 5.3 per 100,000 for Hispanic youths and 24.67 per 100,000 for black youths, the Pew report indicated.
The report also indicated that every state in the nation, as well as the District of Columbia, has a lower teen birthrate than it did in the early 1990s. The birthrate for 15- to 19-year-olds (the metric tracked by federal researchers) has been dropping for decades, Pew pointed out, and hit a record low in 2014. There were just 24.2 births per 1,000 teen females that year, compared with 61.8 per 1,000 in 1991 and 41.5 as recently as 2007.