Kids who repeat a grade may be more likely to get bullied, study finds

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Experts are worried about how being held back affects kids socially

A new global study explored how repeating a grade may affect kids from a social perspective. According to researchers, having this experience may make kids more susceptible to bullying by their peers who were promoted. 

“Grade repetition is practiced worldwide and varies considerably across the globe,” the researchers wrote. “Although a large body of research has documented grade repetition’s academic and nonacademic effects, the limited evidence on associations between grade repetition and school bullying is inconsistent and ambiguous. This study aimed to investigate the global association of grade repetition with bully victimization in a large-scale school-based cross-sectional study.” 

Kids can get bullied when they’re held back

For the study, the researchers analyzed data from over 465,000 students from 74 countries enrolled in the Program for International Student Assessment (PIA). Students answered questions about their experience repeating a grade, including any instances of bullying over the previous 12 months. 

The researchers learned that students who repeated a grade were more likely than their classmates who were promoted to experience bullying. Overall, more than 12% of participants were held back a grade, and more than 30% of those students were bullied by their classmates who moved on to the next grade. Bullying included being made fun of, being threatened, having possessions taken away, being physically abused, and being the subject of rumors. 

The study showed that this trend was more prevalent among female students who repeated a grade than male students. The researchers hope these findings highlight the ways that repeating a grade can impact kids on a social level. 

“These results are of great concern for parents, teachers, principals, and policymakers at different levels, especially in countries where grade repetition is particularly prevalent,” the researchers wrote. “Grade repetition is associated with bullying victimization in both boys and girls.” 

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