In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Peer Victimization and Bullying in Childhood and Adolescence

  • Introduction
  • Books
  • Definitions and Prevalence Rates
  • Methodology and Measurement
  • Intervention Research

Psychology Peer Victimization and Bullying in Childhood and Adolescence
Michelle Schmidt, Catherine Bagwell
  • LAST REVIEWED: 27 May 2020
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 May 2020
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199828340-0263


Given the wide-reaching implications of peer bullying and victimization for children and adolescents as well as increasing public attention to this topic, research in this area has grown during the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Beginning with efforts in Norway in the 1970s, research on bullying and victimization has expanded to include an abundance of research in the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia, and other countries. Regardless of geographic area, important targets of research include defining the constructs (e.g., what is aggression and when does it become bullying or victimization behavior? Are there bullying or victimization behaviors that are more characteristic of males or females?) and understanding the degree to which the problem affects youth (e.g., What are prevalence rates for preschoolers versus school-aged children versus adolescents?). Some studies distinguish between physical or overt forms and social or relational forms of bullying and victimization, but others include measures of general bullying and victimization that do not distinguish among different types. Even with more agreement on definitions, researchers still use different methodologies and measures to study bullying and victimization. A fundamental goal of much of the research literature is to identify predictors and consequences of both bullying and victimization. The correlates and predictors of bullying and victimization exist within multiple contexts and can be grouped into several categories, such as Individual-Level Risk Factors, Family- and Home-Level Risk Factors, Social-Level Risk Factors, and School-Level Risk Factors. Considerable attention has been given to Internalizing Distress and externalizing behavior problems as key outcomes or consequences of bullying and victimization. In addition, other consequences include peer problems and school-related problems. Both cross-sectional and longitudinal studies explore these topics, and a number of useful review articles and meta-analyses provide additional evidence. As researchers have considered more complex models involving risk factors and outcomes associated with bullying and victimization, many have focused on identifying protective factors that might moderate the link between risk factors and victimization or that might function as a buffer against negative outcomes associated with victimization and bullying. Friendship is one such moderator variable with considerable evidence that it disrupts both of these links. The ultimate goal of much of the research on bullying and victimization is to inform the development of effective prevention and intervention efforts. With regard to intervention, research efforts are most often school-based with objectives that include, for example, reducing bullying behaviors, empowering victims, educating teachers, and effectively engaging bystanders.


A number of books provide important information to guide our understanding of victimization and bullying. The books, published primarily during the first decade of the 2000s but still quite relevant, cover topics in bullying and victimization, and relatedly, in aggression, and all consider intervention or prevention ideas. Two books, Underwood 2003 and Putallaz and Bierman 2004, are unique in that they specifically focus on aggressive behaviors in girls and argue that there are unique characteristics and implications of girls’ aggression that need to be examined. Given that researchers use measures of aggression to identify bullying and victimization, Underwood 2003 is important and relevant in understanding social aggression, which, the author argues, is a type of aggression frequently used by girls. Putallaz and Bierman 2004 takes a different direction in its examination of aggression in girls, with a focus on antisocial behavior, violence, and long-term implications of these behaviors. Elias and Zins 2003 is a collection of empirical papers that considers bullying and victimization intervention for middle and high schoolers, and Zins, et al. 2007 is an edited volume that is fully focused on school-based intervention and prevention in middle and high schoolers, with comprehensive coverage that extends to professional and legal issues and includes several specific intervention programs. Both Espelage and Swearer 2004 and Mishna 2012 use a social-ecological approach to examine bullying and victimization. Espelage and Swearer 2004 comprises a series of chapters that use that approach to establish an understanding of the various components of a child’s life that must be considered in order to address the problems of bullying and victimization, and Mishna 2012 is a practical book that includes discussion of legislation and cyberbullying. Englander 2013 examines the nature and incidence of both traditional and cyberbullying, as well as strategies for dealing with both. Juvonen and Graham 2001 is an edited volume focusing primarily on peer victimization and covering a wide range of topics including methodological issues, developmental issues, and the consequences of victimization. Sanders and Phye 2004 and Saracho 2016 both continue the conversation about bullying by including family factors that influence this behavior, and Saracho 2016 is unique in the focus on early childhood, with an emphasis on intervention and prevention for young children.

  • Elias, M. J., and J. E. Zins, eds. 2003. Bullying, peer harassment, and victimization in the schools: The next generation of prevention. New York: Haworth.

    This edited volume contains eleven chapters, eight of which are empirical papers. The common threads among the chapters are a focus on middle and high school samples and on school-based bullying and victimization behaviors, as well as an emphasis on how the results of the studies can guide prevention and intervention strategies. The book also emphasizes implications for school psychology research and mental health professionals’ practice.

  • Englander, E. K. 2013. Bullying and cyberbullying: What every educator needs to know. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press.

    Provides a practical but research-based look at traditional bullying and cyberbullying. Using experiences and research findings gained through the Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center (MARC), Englander first covers the nature of bullying, prevalence rates, reasons for bullying, and the intersection of bullying and cyberbullying. She then focuses on strategies for dealing with the bullying problem, including engaging bystanders, peers, and parents.

  • Espelage, D. L., and S. M. Swearer, eds. 2004. Bullying in American schools: A socio-ecological perspective on prevention and intervention. Matwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

    Using a socio-ecological framework, this book is focused on characteristics of bullies and victims, as well as the roles of the peer group, the classroom, and characteristics beyond the classroom (e.g., family and home-school collaborations) and preventions and interventions. The book notably uses a holistic understanding of children’s lives outside of the dyad. Three intervention programs are discussed: Bully Busters, Expect Respect, and the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program.

  • Juvonen, J., and S. Graham, eds. 2001. Peer harassment in school: The plight of the vulnerable and victimized. New York: Guilford.

    This volume contains seventeen chapters that are organized into four topical areas related to peer harassment: conceptual and methodological issues; subtypes and age-related changes; correlates and consequences; and beyond the dyad. Olweus provides the introduction to the book, outlining his early work in Scandinavia and advancing his position on North American research on social status and rejection. The comprehensive volume addresses victimization throughout childhood and adolescence.

  • Mishna, F. 2012. Bullying: A guide to research, intervention, and prevention. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

    This single-author volume provides an empirically based overview of bullying, and is a useful resource for researchers, undergraduate or graduate students, and practitioners looking to learn more about the topic. Notable in this book are its use of the ecological framework, attention to theoretical underpinnings of bullying, coverage of relevant legislation and bias-based bullying, schools and intervention approaches, cyberbullying, bullying within friendships, and treatment ideas.

  • Putallaz, M., and K. L. Bierman, eds. 2004. Aggression, antisocial behavior, and violence among girls: A developmental perspective. New York: Guilford.

    As part of the Duke Series in Child Development and Public Policy, this book is concerned with defining and describing aggression in girls; extending the discussion to include antisocial behavior in girls (e.g., girls’ violent behavior); and discussing the longer-term implications of these behaviors (e.g., aggression problems and conduct disorder and future parenting roles). The book also explores prevention and intervention, and ideas for public policy reform.

  • Sanders, C. E., and G. D. Phye, eds. 2004. Bullying: Implications for the classroom. New York: Elsevier.

    An edited volume that covers the nature of bullying and victims, peer influences, and a focus on bullying during the middle school years. Somewhat unique to other sources, this book also includes chapters on family influences of bullying (pp. 111–136), school factors that contribute to bullying (pp. 159–176), and curriculum-based intervention strategies (pp. 203–228). The volume also contains a chapter (pp. 50–56) that discusses the important question of whether bullying can be eliminated.

  • Saracho, O. N., ed. 2016. Contemporary perspectives on research on bullying and victimization in early childhood education. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.

    A collection of chapters geared toward those interested in bullying in early childhood development and education. This edited volume contains sixteen chapters geared toward defining bullying and outlining bullying research in early childhood, connecting family factors with child experiences of bullying, and identifying intervention and prevention strategies. The book also notably has a chapter on children with disabilities (pp. 127–159) and another on cyberbullying in children aged eight years and under (pp. 157–179).

  • Underwood, M. 2003. Social aggression among girls. New York: Guilford.

    A book devoted to an examination of aggression, namely social aggression, in girls. Underwood discusses social aggression, as compared to indirect aggression and relational aggression. The book presents a developmental picture of girls’ aggression from infancy through adolescence. Implications of and potential interventions for girls’ aggression are also discussed.

  • Zins, J. E., M. J. Elias, and C. A. Maher, eds. 2007. Bullying, victimization, and peer harassment. New York: Haworth.

    This edited volume is particularly important due to its overview of the nature of bullying and victimization in both childhood and adolescence, as well as its focus on preventive and intervention efforts. The twenty-one-chapter volume is separated into five sections comprising theory and conceptual issues, empirical research, prevention and intervention strategies, professional and legal considerations, and schoolwide approaches. Chapters contain both empirical papers and reviews of literature.

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