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Incidence of Bullying in Sparsely Populated Regions: An Exploratory Study in Ávila and Zamora (Spain)

Technology, Instruction and Design in Engineering and Education Research Group, Catholic University of Ávila, C/Canteros, s/n, 05005 Ávila, Spain
Laboratory of Neuronal Plasticity and Neurorepair, Institute for Neuroscience of Castilla y León and Institute of Biomedical Research of Salamanca, University of Salamanca, 37008 Salamanca, Spain
Department of Personality, Evaluation and Psychological Treatments, University of Salamanca, 37005 Salamanca, Spain
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Educ. Sci. 2023, 13(2), 174;
Received: 13 January 2023 / Revised: 4 February 2023 / Accepted: 5 February 2023 / Published: 7 February 2023


In this work, quantitative research on the incidence of bullying attitudes present among primary and secondary school students in a Spanish area with a very low population density (the one formed by the provinces of Avila and Zamora) was carried out. The data were obtained from a standardized test designed to diagnose bullying (AVE test: Acoso y Violencia Escolar—Bullying and School Violence), which was administered to a sample of 129 students between 9 and 15 years of age in the area. The answers of the participants were statistically analyzed, using both descriptive and inferential techniques, to conclude the degree of presence of the different bullying factors analyzed by the AVE. As a result, it can be observed that almost a quarter of the participants present were at risk of being bullied, which means that the rate of bullying in sparsely populated areas is below the national average. In addition, there are strong gender gaps in terms of the typology and incidence of bullying, which shows that men and women have different behaviors in this regard.

1. Introduction

Bullying is one of the oldest problems in schools and, unfortunately, is still prevalent today. Indeed, recent research shows that 32% of the participating students acknowledge having been bullied in the month before they were asked [1]. Bullying, therefore, is a sadly frequent phenomenon that occurs when a child is exposed to physical and/or psychological harm caused intentionally and repeatedly by another, or a group of them, in a school context [1]. The bully takes advantage of the existence of some kind of power imbalance between him/her and his/her victim, such as a difference in age or physical build, or the presence of some characteristic, usually physical, of the victim, such as being overweight, to obtain a benefit [2,3]. For his/her part, the victim feels helpless and can develop a series of psychological disorders that directly affect their health or even, in extreme situations, self-destructive behaviors [2,3].
The causes of bullying are very diverse and depend on each individual case. However, among the characteristics common to all bullying attitudes is the existence of social or family situations that facilitate the development of aggressive attitudes on the part of the bully [4]. These situations may include unfavorable socioeconomic contexts, the existence of negative social influences, or scenes of aggression in the family environment, among others. In any case, the importance of the social context in the development of bullying attitudes is clear [4], which explains the existence of abundant studies on the prevalence of bullying according to the age of the children, or their social stratum, but these studies are usually located in urban environments [1]. However, as far as it has been able to explore, the literature does not include studies analyzing the prevalence of bullying attitudes in rural and sparsely populated areas, even though population density is a very important socioeconomic factor that has a strong connection with the amount and type of social contact that children have. This paper addresses the incidence of bullying in a geographic region with a low population density in Spain, covering the provinces of Avila and Zamora. Specifically, the prevalence of the main bullying factors among the child population of this region is analyzed, and the influence of gender and age on the incidence of these factors is studied. Thus, the main novelty of this study is the fact of focusing on rural and depopulated populations to study the specific development of bullying attitudes in them. Likewise, this work contributes to the present literature on the incidence of bullying in Spain, which is, so far, scarce.

2. Literature Review

2.1. The Notion of Bullying and Its Incidence in the Post-Pandemic Situation

The concept of bullying can be defined as a set of violent, psychological, verbal, or physical behaviors that occur among minors and which are characterized by the existence of an inequality of power between aggressors and victims, with the former being children with a dominant and defiant character, and the latter being unpopular and shy students [2,3,4]. In this regard, it should be noted that bullying usually occurs between children of approximately the same age, with less frequent cases in which the aggressor is an adult [5].
Despite the young age of the protagonists of bullying situations, their youth does not exempt them from the danger that characterizes these behaviors, which can lead to serious psychological, neurological, behavioral, and addictive cases and even, in the most serious circumstances, suicides among the victims [6,7,8,9,10]. In this regard, psychologists warn that almost 23% of school-age victims of bullying have emotional management problems [11]. Other sources link being a victim of bullying with dropping out of school [12]. Likewise, bullying is characterized by the fact that it is not limited to a specific circumstance but extends over time, i.e., the aggressive behaviors that define it are not isolated but are frequently observed in schools among the same aggressors and victims [13].
The forms that bullying can take at school are very numerous and diverse. The most frequent and easily identifiable are verbal or physical, but there are also bullying actions of a psychological, social exclusion, and even gender nature, with the latter, especially, in secondary education [5,14,15,16]. Despite the popular belief that associates bullying with physical aggression, this form of bullying is not the most common [17], but the most frequent form of bullying is social blocking [18,19], mainly linked to the presence of certain characteristics of the victims, either physical or linked to the ability to learn [20].
In recent years, there has been an increase in this type of hostile behavior, which has been defined as bullying, even going beyond educational centers [21]. In fact, the phenomenon of bullying has surpassed the limitations of space–time through so-called cyberbullying, which can be defined as the new form of harassment developed using digital technologies and social networks, in which it is not necessary for the aggressor and the victim to share physical space, and they do not even have to know each other [14,21]. This last form of bullying has increased after the COVID-19 pandemic situation, due to the increased use of technologies and the ease of access that aggressors have to their victims [22,23,24]. Cyberbullying occurs unevenly in different geographical regions, being more infrequent in areas with little digitalization, such as South Africa [25]. In Spain, however, this form of bullying is increasingly frequent [24,26,27]. However, the incidence of cyberbullying in Spain (11.4%) is lower than the average incidence of bullying, and it is higher among females than males [28,29].

2.2. The Incidence of Bullying in Urban vs. Rural Areas

The specialized literature quantifies the rate of bullying victims among students in the primary education stage—between 6 and 12 years old—in Spain at 62.2%, which is precisely the region in which the present research was developed [30,31]. In this regard, the data are highly variable in the different geographical regions. Thus, the incidence rate of bullying in the school environment in Spain is like that of other surrounding countries, such as Portugal [32], Italy [33], or Poland [34], with all of these countries standing out for the serious problems of the emotional and social development of their respective students, which makes them especially vulnerable to bullying situations [34]. On the other hand, the Spanish rate of bullying is notably higher than those of countries in other geographical regions. Thus, the literature places the rate of bullying among schoolchildren in Latin American countries at between one-third and approximately one-half of the Spanish rate [35], while the rate in China is approximately one-half [36].
Focusing on the relation between the incidence of bullying and its localization, the data reveal that the incidence of bullying in geographic areas with a low population density is much lower. For example, in Iceland, the incidence of school-age bullying is around 5.5% [37]. Some sources indicate that population growth results in a higher incidence of bullying [38,39]. However, it cannot be directly deduced from this that population density necessarily leads to an increase in bullying at the school stage because, for example, the Chinese data disprove this. In this regard, the literature explains that there is a strong divergence between the meanings given to bullying in different geographical regions, which may be an explanatory variable for the divergences observed in the incidence of bullying at school [40,41,42].
However, the previous literature does not identify significant differences between the incidence of cases of bullying in primary schools in urban and rural settings. In contrast, differences have been observed between urban and rural settings in terms of bullying typology, with verbal bullying, social exclusion, and cyberbullying being more common in rural settings, and verbal and social exclusion bullying being more common in urban settings [26]. When it comes to secondary education—children over 12 years of age—these data change, with bullying of a physical type being more common in urban centers [43].
An important proportion of bullying attitudes has its origin in the presence of gender stereotypes and hostile sexist attitudes in schoolchildren, mainly among boys [44]. This fact explains why the literature finds that there is a large proportion of victims of school bullying who are females bullied by males [32,45,46]. The typology of bullying also has a certain gender bias because the forms of bullying of which females are more frequently victims are non-physical, mainly verbal [44,47]. However, gender is not the only explanatory variable for bullying situations. The fact that children witness situations of aggression or violence in their family environment makes it easier for them to develop this type of attitude with their peers in the school environment [48,49,50,51].
Likewise, the literature that analyzes the age of the victims of bullying provides very diverse data. In Spain, the range of 13 to 16 years old is usually established as the age range in which most victims are concentrated [52], although some sources explain that the highest incidence of bullying occurs between 10 and 11 years old [53,54,55] or between 11 and 13 years old [56].
The incidence of bullying is important enough for the literature to develop techniques, such as deep learning, to identify the possible cases of bullying or the risk of bullying as early as possible [43,57]. Moreover, the use of educational games is also significant as a mean to raise student awareness of bullying, generate feelings of rejection towards bullying, and educate adequately in the field of social relations [58,59,60].
Within Spain, the region of Castilla y León (Figure 1) presents evidence of depopulation [61]. This region has a population of 2.4 million inhabitants dispersed over a territory of 90,000 km2 but with strong local fragmentation—three-quarters of the territory is made up of municipalities with less than 1000 inhabitants located in rural areas. However, within this region, which consists of nine provinces, some of them have population densities of over 60 inhabitants/km2, such as Valladolid, while others have population densities of less than 20 inhabitants/km2. The provinces of Avila and Zamora (Figure 1), where the present study is focused, are, in this sense, two provinces whose population density data of 13 and 11 inhabitants/km2, respectively, places them at severe risk of depopulation, within a region that is already considered a depopulated region in itself [61]. In this paper, a quantitative analysis of the incidence and typology of school bullying in the depopulated areas of Avila and Zamora is carried out, with special emphasis on the incidence of bullying cases according to the gender and age of the victims. The aim is to establish the basis for a differential analysis with respect to urban areas and, thus, be able to provide ideas for a specific treatment against bullying in depopulated areas.

3. Materials and Methods

3.1. Participants

The study involved 129 students (71 females and 58 males) aged between 9 and 15 years (mean 11.61, standard deviation 1.80, and median age 12), from 3 different primary and secondary schools in the Spanish provinces of Avila and Zamora, included among the areas considered sparsely populated. Participants were selected by a two-stage non-probabilistic convenience sampling process: (i) the authors met with the directors and teachers of the schools, to whom they gave a theoretical training session on bullying, its typology and detection, explained the characteristics of the bullying factors assessment test, and explained the research objective of the project; (ii) the teachers who decided to participate requested the express and informed consent of the parents of all the students in their group and, finally, administered the test used as an instrument to all the students whose parents expressed their explicit consent. Therefore, the protocol followed, endorsed by the Bioethics Committee of the University of Salamanca and the Department of Education of the Junta de Castilla y León, complies with the requirements of the Declaration of Helsinki, the regulations on personal data protection, and has the express and informed consent of the legal guardians of the underage participants.

3.2. Objectives and Variables

The general aim of this research is to analyze the incidence of different types of bullying occurring in the school environment in the sparsely populated areas of Avila and Zamora (Spain). Specifically, throughout the article, the following specific objectives are achieved: (i) to know the proportion of bullying cases occurring among the schoolchildren participating in the study and to describe the incidence of the different types of bullying among these participants; (ii) to identify statistically significant differences in the incidence of the different types of bullying by gender or age of the participating schoolchildren; and (iii) to measure the degree of interdependence with which the different types of bullying occur and statistically analyze the level of significance of these dependencies.
The study considers two independent variables: (i) gender, which is a dichotomous nominal variable, whose possible values are female or male; and (ii) age, which is a quantitative variable. Likewise, two dependent variables are defined: (i) whether the victim is a victim of bullying, which is a trichotomous variable, whose values are yes, no, or at risk of being bullied and, if yes, (ii) the dominant bullying factors that the victim presents, which is a polytomous variable, whose values are aggressions, threats, social blocking, coercions, social exclusion, harassment, intimidation, and manipulation.

3.3. Instrument

The Bullying and School Violence test, known as the AVE test (Acoso y Violencia Escolar, for its acronym in Spanish), was used as a research instrument [62]. This is a questionnaire that was designed in 2005 and subjected to a validation process between 2005 and 2006, through statistical analysis carried out on a representative and significant sample of almost 30,000 Spanish children aged 7 to 18 years. Consequently, the instrument was validated in terms of its content by means of the scrutiny of expert criteria, and in terms of the construct, by means of a convergent–divergent analysis. It consists of 94 items that evaluate the psychological and physical violence and bullying that occurs in the school environment by assessing the most frequent risk factors and the most significant damage that usually occurs in children who are victims of bullying. The questionnaire is divided into two parts: (i) a family of questions on the frequency with which certain bullying behaviors occur, such as the use of nicknames—trichotomous questions with possible answers of never, sometimes, or many times and (ii) questions on psychological aspects related to bullying, such as the presence of suicidal thoughts—dichotomous questions with yes or no answers. The psychometric evaluation indicates that the test presents a high level of consistency, with a Cronbach’s alpha of 0.95 [62]. Likewise, the factor analysis performed on the test identified the following factors as indicators of harassment: (i) aggressions; (ii) threats; (iii) social blocking; (iv) coercions; (v) social exclusion; (vi) harassment; (vii) intimidation; and (viii) manipulation. The evaluation of the answers given to the test by the student leads to the attribution of a level of bullying for each of the possible factors, from among four possible levels: no contrasted bullying or contrasted bullying—the latter with three different levels increasing with the intensity of bullying. For the purposes of this research, a factor is taken as a dominant bullying factor when it occurs at the highest possible level of intensity among the four levels evaluated by the test. Likewise, a student is at risk of bullying when any of the factors analyzed occurs at one of the two intermediate levels of intensity, corresponding to a situation of contrasted bullying level 1 or 2.

3.4. Design and Statistical Analysis

This paper develops descriptive quantitative research on the incidence of different types of bullying among the school population in sparsely populated areas of Avila and Zamora. The research process followed the following phases (Figure 2): (i) definition of the research objectives and variables; (ii) visit to schools and training conferences on bullying—first sampling stage; (iii) collection of test results—second sampling stage; (iv) statistical analysis of the results; and (v) drawing of conclusions.
From the responses to the questionnaire, the frequencies of bullied, at risk of bullying, and non-bullied children and, within the bullied children, the different types of bullying were measured, and the descriptive statistics in this respect were computed. Pearson’s chi-square goodness-of-fit test was used to check whether the responses were homogeneously distributed by gender or not. To analyze whether there were significant differences based on the age of the participants, inferential statistical techniques were used. Specifically, Tukey’s HSD multiple-means comparison test was used to decide whether the differences between the ages of the participants who were being bullied, those who were not being bullied, and those who were at risk of being bullied were significant. Tukey’s test allows comparing the mean ages of the different levels of a factor in the case of the three levels of risk of being bullied—not at risk, at risk, or being a victim. It is based on the distribution of the range, which is the distribution that follows the difference in the maximum and minimum of the differences between the sample mean and the population mean of the 3 independent variables. Finally, to analyze the degree of the statistical significance of interdependence in the incidence of the different types of bullying, Pearson’s chi-square test of independence was used. All hypothesis tests were performed at the 0.05 level of significance.

4. Results

From the participants’ responses, it can be deduced that 18.60% of the participants (a total of 24) suffered bullying in the school environment, 5.43% (a total of 7 students) were at risk of suffering bullying, while 75.97% (98 students) showed no signs of having suffered bullying. Figure 3 shows that social blocking was the most frequent indicator of bullying among the participating students, followed by harassment, social exclusion, manipulation, and intimidation. Coercions, threats, and aggressions were the most infrequent factors.
The statistics of the Pearson’s chi-square test of independence carried out by relating, two by two, the different types of harassment analyzed, among the participants who were victims of harassment, yielded the following conclusions (Table 1): (i) aggressions, threats, social blocking, coercions, and exclusion occur independently of each other; (ii) harassment occurs linked to aggressions and threats; (iii) intimidation occurs linked to aggressions, social blocking, and harassment; and (iv) manipulation occurs linked to social blocking situations.
Table 2 shows the proportions of students who reported being bullied for each of the types of bullying studied, within the sample of 24 students who reported being bullied, distinguishing between females and males. The proportions of female victims of bullying were higher than those of males for all types of bullying, but the widest gaps between females and males were in aggressions, threats, intimidation, and manipulation. However, from Pearson’s chi-square test statistics of goodness-of-fit to a homogeneous distribution, it cannot be assumed that the identified gender gaps are statistically significant.
The median age of the victims of bullying among the study participants was 11.08 years, which is only half a year younger than the median age of the total population analyzed and also the median age of the participants who were not victims of bullying (Table 3). The interquartile range of the age of the victims coincides with that of the age of the total population but is larger than the interquartile range of the age of the participants who were not victims of bullying. Likewise, the smallest age deviation is among non-victim participants, so victims are the most widely dispersed in age. Children at risk of being bullied have a mean age slightly more than one year older than that of bullying victims but with a slightly smaller age dispersion. Therefore, the actual bullying was distributed around 11 years old, while the incidence of the risk of bullying was generally found in children slightly older than 12 years, and its effect was slightly more concentrated in time.
Tukey’s HSD multiple-means comparison test (Table 4) shows that there are no significant differences between the mean ages of the victims of bullying, those who are not, and those who are at risk of being bullied (F-statistic = 1.4693, num. df = 2, denom. df = 14.8340, p-value = 0.2617). A graphical representation of the confidence intervals identified by Tukey’s test (Figure 4) shows that, with a confidence level of 95%, all the confidence intervals contain the value 0.0, which confirms the previous observation of the absence of significant differences between ages. Therefore, it cannot be assumed that age is an explanatory variable for the risk of being a victim of bullying.

5. Discussion

The proportion of children who are victims of bullying or at risk of being bullied, within the sample studied, amounted to 24.03%, which is notably below the 62.2% of victims attributed by the literature at the national level in Spain [30,31] or the average incidence of bullying in schools in other countries in the region, such as Portugal (from 43.2% to 56.8%) [32] or Italy (66.3%) [33]. In contrast, the result obtained resembles the proportion of bullying victims reported by schools in other geographical areas with lower incidences of bullying, such as China (30.4%) [36], the Latin American and Caribbean region (between 17% and 39%) [35], or Australia (21.5%) [53,63], but the rate of bullying is almost four times higher than that presented by geographical areas with lower bullying rates, such as Iceland (5.5%) [37].
Consequently, the incidence of bullying among preadolescent schoolchildren in depopulated areas of Spain is found to be below the national average. This result is novel, but it is in line with analogous results presented in the literature focused on different geographical areas. For example, schools in rural and sparsely populated areas of Russia have been shown to cultivate resilience and rejection of coercive and violent attitudes to a greater extent than schools in urban areas, resulting in a lower incidence of bullying in these areas relative to urban regions [38]. The literature also shows that the growth in population density in urban areas such as Tokyo in the late 1980s was accompanied by a proportional increase in bullying in schools [39]. It is also found that the level of incidence of bullying in schools in depopulated Spain resembles that of other countries outside Europe with a lower presence of bullying in schools. However, this finding requires verification in a subsequent qualitative descriptive study because there are significant differences between the meanings given to the terms related to bullying in different countries [40].
The most frequent bullying factor within the studied sample is social blocking, which affects almost half of the participants who are victims of bullying (Figure 3), followed by harassment and social exclusion (Figure 5). These results are consistent with previous literature, which identifies social blocking as one of the most frequent forms of bullying [18], mainly among females [19]. Harassment has also been identified as a very common form of bullying, especially linked to sexual harassment [16].
On the other hand, threats, coercions, and aggressions are the least common bullying factors (Figure 3), which also agrees with the results of previous literature, which confirm that physical aggression is the least frequent form of bullying, in general [17]. Therefore, from the results obtained, it cannot be deduced that there are significant differences between the incidence rates of the different bullying factors in sparsely populated areas of Spain and the corresponding rates at the general level. Furthermore, it is shown that harassment and intimidation attitudes are predictive of aggressions, social blocking is predictive of intimidation and manipulation, and, in turn, intimidation is predictive of harassment and aggressions (Table 1), which constitutes a novel and original contribution of the present study. Such predictors should be analyzed in other studies at a greater scale in order to help teachers and educators anticipate additional and even aggressive types of bullying if detected.
The results also show that females are victims of bullying in greater proportion than males and that all bullying factors occur in greater proportion among females than among males, although this superiority occurs in different proportions depending on the bullying factor considered (Figure 6), except for coercion, which is slightly more frequent among males (Table 2). However, the chi-square test does not allow us to assume that this gender gap is significant (Table 2). The literature shows that females are indeed more frequent victims of bullying than males and that males are more frequent bullies than females [32,45,46]. In fact, the presence of hostile sexist factors in males is positively correlated with the inclination to develop bullying attitudes toward females [44]. However, in the Spanish case, females are more frequently victims of verbal aggression, and males are victims of physical aggression [44,47], something with which the results obtained here for depopulated areas of Spain do not agree. On the other hand, the lack of statistical significance of the differences obtained here could be due to the size of the sample in relation to the considerable number of harassment factors analyzed, so it would be interesting to carry out an analogous study in a larger depopulated region so that the results can be confirmed. In addition, it is proposed, as a future line of research, to analyze other variables that could explain the incidence rate of different bullying factors, such as anxiety, depression, mood, relationship with parents, or the economic situation of the families [36,48,49,50,51]; the characteristics of the victims used by the aggressors as motivation for their bullying—thinness, learning difficulties, or others [20]; or the semantic differences that have been detected when using certain terms related to bullying, depending on the gender of the aggressor, for example, for the same actions of physical aggression, there is a tendency to call the aggressor “a bully” if the aggressor is male and “a female aggressor” if the aggressor is female [41]. This last reality has led UNESCO to recommend that schools carry out a semantic review and systematization of bullying as a first step in the development of specific plans to combat this phenomenon [42].
The average age of the bullied students analyzed was approximately 11 and a half years old (Table 3). Moreover, there is no significant difference between the ages of the bullied and non-bullied victims, and it follows that age is not an explanatory variable for bullying in the sparsely populated areas studied (Figure 4). The mean age of bullying victims is very diverse in the literature and depends on the samples studied and the analysis methodology employed. Thus, some sources point to 10 years as the most frequent age among bullying victims [54], while others raise this age to the range of 11 to 13 years [56]. Studies focused on Spain indicate that the most common age range for bullying factors is 13 to 16 years [52], although some studies that focused on cyberbullying lower this age to 10 years [55], and that age would indeed be an explanatory variable for the incidence of bullying and the most frequent type of bullying factors [19]. Therefore, the results obtained suggest that age is not an explanatory variable for bullying in sparsely populated areas of Spain and that the age at which bullying factors most frequently appear in these areas is lower than the age at which they appear in urban areas.

6. Limitations and Future Lines of Research

Although the instrument used in this research is validated and robust, its results depend strongly on the meaning attributed by the participants to the terms linked to bullying: aggression, threat, coercion, etc. In addition, it does not allow us to identify certain variables (personal, family, psychological situation, exposure to violence, etc.) that could eventually affect the meaning that participants give to these terms.
The following lines of future research are suggested: (i) to carry out a comparative analysis of the conceptual differences that exist between young people in urban areas and those in sparsely populated areas of Spain regarding the terms linked to bullying in order to check whether there are differences between what the population of some areas and others understand by aggressiveness, coercion, or harassment; (ii) to extend the sample analyzed and carry out a study analogous to the one presented here, ensuring that the sample is representative of a larger area of low population density in order to corroborate the results obtained; (iii) to carry out a qualitative descriptive study to identify other variables, such as mood, family relationships, or academic career, which could act as explanatory variables of the situation of being a victim of bullying; (iv) to analyze the influence of the use of internet and social networks in the development of bullying and cyberbullying among children and young people; (v) to design didactic proposals aimed at preventing bullying attitudes in schools; and (vi) to analyze the perceptions of the rest of the agents involved in the educational process, such as teachers and parents.

7. Conclusions

According to the results obtained, it was observed that the incidence of bullying factors among 9- to 15-year-old students in low population density areas was around one-third of the general bullying incidence. The most frequent bullying factors among schoolchildren in low-population density areas were social blocking and exclusion and harassment, while threats, coercions, and aggressions were the least frequent. Females were victims of bullying more frequently than males. Specifically, the proportion of females who suffered aggressions, threats, or manipulations was between three and six times that of males, the proportion of females who suffered harassment, exclusion, or intimidation was between two and three times that of males, and social blocking and coercions occur approximately homogeneously in females and males—even coercions are more frequently suffered by males. Finally, although age was not found to be a significant explanatory variable of bullying in the areas studied, the average age of bullying victims in sparsely populated areas of Spain is currently around 11 years, which is lower than the national average (between 13 and 16 years) recorded by the literature of the last decade. Therefore, the results seem to indicate that the emergence of bullying attitudes in Spanish schools is occurring at younger ages in the last decade.

Author Contributions

Conceptualization, M.N.-S. and D.V.; methodology, M.N.-S., Á.A.S. and D.V.; formal analysis, M.N.-S., Á.A.S. and D.V.; investigation, M.N.-S.; data curation, Á.A.S.; writing—original draft preparation, M.N.-S., D.D., M.G.-M., Á.A.S. and D.V.; writing—review and editing, M.N.-S., D.D., M.G.-M., Á.A.S. and D.V.; supervision, M.N.-S., D.D., M.G.-M., Á.A.S. and D.V. All authors have read and agreed to the published version of the manuscript.


This research received no external funding.

Institutional Review Board Statement

The study was conducted in accordance with the Declaration of Helsinki, and approved by the Institutional Review Board of Junta de Castilla y León and the Ethics Committee of University of Salamanca (protocol code 351 and date of approval 6 February 2019).

Informed Consent Statement

Informed consent was obtained from all subjects involved in the study. Written informed consent has been obtained from the participants to publish this paper.

Data Availability Statement

The data are not publicly available because they are part of a larger project involving more researchers. If you have any questions, please ask the corresponding author.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.


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Figure 1. Ávila and Zamora, within the provinces of Castilla y León, in Spain.
Figure 1. Ávila and Zamora, within the provinces of Castilla y León, in Spain.
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Figure 2. Research phases.
Figure 2. Research phases.
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Figure 3. Incidence rate (%) of each of the bullying factors analyzed within the sample of participants who were bullied.
Figure 3. Incidence rate (%) of each of the bullying factors analyzed within the sample of participants who were bullied.
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Figure 4. Confidence intervals at the 95% family-wise confidence level using Tukey’s method.
Figure 4. Confidence intervals at the 95% family-wise confidence level using Tukey’s method.
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Figure 5. Percentage of incidence of each of the bullying factors.
Figure 5. Percentage of incidence of each of the bullying factors.
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Figure 6. Incidence of each of the bullying factors, differentiating by gender.
Figure 6. Incidence of each of the bullying factors, differentiating by gender.
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Table 1. Pearson’s chi-square test of independence p-values, performed by relating the different types of bullying, among the victims of bullying.
Table 1. Pearson’s chi-square test of independence p-values, performed by relating the different types of bullying, among the victims of bullying.
Aggressions10.20590.47800.58620.15150.0021 *0.0196 *0.7954
Threats 10.19970.20590.06410.0439 *0.15980.1598
Blocking 10.81300.18830.39170.0466 *0.0466 *
Coercions 10.63260.47800.43670.0695
Exclusion 10.23910.32370.3237
Harassment 10.0119 *0.1063
Intimidation 10.0530
Manipulation 1
* p < 0.05.
Table 2. Percentages of bullying victims among participants, globally and differentiating by gender, and chi-square test statistics of fit to a homogeneous distribution when differentiating between females and males.
Table 2. Percentages of bullying victims among participants, globally and differentiating by gender, and chi-square test statistics of fit to a homogeneous distribution when differentiating between females and males.
Bullying TypeTotal (%)Females (%)Males (%)Chi-Squarep-Value
Social blocking54.253.846.20.910.3411
Social exclusion41.770.030.00.410.5212
Table 3. Descriptive statistics of participants’ ages according to whether they were victims of bullying or at risk of being bullied (IQR means interquartile range).
Table 3. Descriptive statistics of participants’ ages according to whether they were victims of bullying or at risk of being bullied (IQR means interquartile range).
MeanStd. DeviationIQR
Not bullied11.691.773.00
At risk of being bullied12.291.801.00
Table 4. Tukey’s HSD multiple-means comparison test statistics.
Table 4. Tukey’s HSD multiple-means comparison test statistics.
EstimateStd. Errort-Valuep-Value
Bullied—Not bullied−0.61050.4089−1.49300.2850
Bullied—At risk−1.20240.7712−1.55900.2560
At risk—Not bullied0.59180.70290.84300.6660
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Nieto-Sobrino, M.; Díaz, D.; García-Mateos, M.; Antón-Sancho, Á.; Vergara, D. Incidence of Bullying in Sparsely Populated Regions: An Exploratory Study in Ávila and Zamora (Spain). Educ. Sci. 2023, 13, 174.

AMA Style

Nieto-Sobrino M, Díaz D, García-Mateos M, Antón-Sancho Á, Vergara D. Incidence of Bullying in Sparsely Populated Regions: An Exploratory Study in Ávila and Zamora (Spain). Education Sciences. 2023; 13(2):174.

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Nieto-Sobrino, María, David Díaz, Montfragüe García-Mateos, Álvaro Antón-Sancho, and Diego Vergara. 2023. "Incidence of Bullying in Sparsely Populated Regions: An Exploratory Study in Ávila and Zamora (Spain)" Education Sciences 13, no. 2: 174.

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