Many of the advocates of school uniforms claim that uniforms for students in K-12 reduce behavior problems such as bullying.

What evidence exists to support or contradict these claims?

For example, it's fair to say that students are less likely to be bullied on the basis of clothing when everyone wears the same thing. But does overall bullying reduce with uniforms in the absence of any other changes? How about other behavioral or academic changes?

  • 3
    You can still bully the kids that don't have an iPhone, and anecdotally it was relied to me that girls make up for the lack of individualism by excessive use of makeup...
    – Lagerbaer
    Commented Jul 10, 2011 at 15:46
  • I've restricted your question to a single claim as it was too wide and generic.
    – Sklivvz
    Commented Jul 10, 2011 at 16:39
  • 1
    "How do you measure and compare behaviour?" If fewer students are involved in medical complications due to actions from other students, that's probably a good first approximation. Grades and test achievement are probably a second.
    – user792
    Commented Jul 10, 2011 at 17:24
  • 2
    @Werner and others: I've removed the whining. Please move on to the chat.
    – Sklivvz
    Commented Jul 10, 2011 at 22:13
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    This well-publicised study in the UK said there was improved behaviour, the fact that the research was sponsored by the Schoolwear Association was not so well-known.
    – JoseK
    Commented Jul 11, 2011 at 10:11

1 Answer 1


Reading around this subject there appears to have been a 1998 summary in the US which is quoted a lot in political debates full report here.. This research summarised that

Our findings indicate that student uniforms have no direct effect on substance use, behavioral problems or attendance. A negative effect of uniforms on student academic achievement was found

Which seems to be opposite to the prevailing wisdom about uniform promoting good behaviour. There is also a study from 1998 study Into things which effect behaviour ins schools with a specific section on schools that can be found here. This study also concluded

The notions that school uniforms and zero tolerance for gangs would reduce school disorder and consequently improve student academic performance were not supported

Looking for contraindications to the above evidence there is an article quoted around a bit from psychology today which indicated that uniforms had a huge positive impact.

However I suspect there is a correlation not the direct causality indicated there (but without paying I can't access the full article). Indeed one of the quotes from people associated with the schools said this

Dick Van Der Laan of the Long Beach Unified School District explained, "We can't attribute the improvement exclusively to school uniforms, but we think it's more than coincidental."

I think this quote highlights one of the problems with researching the issue of school uniforms. School's do not exist in a vacuum, and a whole host of things change from term to term when there is a problem with behaviour in an attempt to sort out issues.

It is difficult to tell whether benefits are anything to do with the school uniform itself, or other reforms which happened around the same time. One can also guess that schools with strict dress policies and/or uniform policies will also be more strict on behavioural terms (just being consistent) so any study just considering uniforms may be skewed.

Anecdotal evidence is available on the department of education website too. But there still seems to be a lack of direct evidence. It can be noted that this page indicates that schools should

Treat school uniforms as part of an overall safety program And not treat it as a single fix for anything.

Actual statistical comparisons seem to be thin on the ground apart from the first two studies, and most of the stuff I read calls for more studies, however I can see difficulties with producing comprehensive and verifiable information about the effect of uniforms in general.

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    It strikes me as entirely unsurprising that school uniforms have a negative impact on performance. Certainly I perform better if I'm comfortable in the clothes I wear.
    – gerrit
    Commented Jul 26, 2017 at 11:37

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