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Survey shows sharp decline in bullying

There's been a sharp drop in the percentage of America's children being bullied or beaten up by their peers, according to a new national survey by experts who believe anti-bullying programs are having an impact.

The study, funded by the U.S. Department of Justice, found that the percentage of children who reported being physically bullied in the preceding year declined from nearly 22 percent in 2003 to under 15 percent in 2008. The percentage reporting they'd been assaulted by other youths, including their siblings, dropped from 45 percent to 38.4 percent.

The study's lead author, David Finkelhor, said he was "very encouraged."

"Bullying is the foundation on which a lot of subsequent aggressive behavior gets built," said Finkelhor, director of the University of New Hampshire's Crimes Against Children Research Center. "If it's going down, we will reap benefits in the future in the form of lower rates of violent crime and spousal assault."

Finkelhor noted that anti-bullying programs had proliferated and received funding boosts following the 1999 Columbine High School shootings in Colorado.

"There is evidence these programs are effective," he said. "I wouldn't be surprised if we're seeing the fruits of that."

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