Psychology Peer Victimization and Bullying in Childhood and Adolescence
Michelle Schmidt, Catherine Bagwell
  • 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.

    Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    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.

    Find this resource:

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

    Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    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.

    Find this resource:

  • 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.

    Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    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.

    Find this resource:

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

    Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    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.

    Find this resource:

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

    Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    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.

    Find this resource:

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

    Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    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.

    Find this resource:

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

    Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    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.

    Find this resource:

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

    Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    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).

    Find this resource:

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

    Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    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.

    Find this resource:

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

    Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    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.

    Find this resource:

Definitions and Prevalence Rates

Since the early 1990s, there has been extensive discussion about what constitutes bullying and victimization; what types of aggression are related (i.e., for some children, they are both bullies and victims) or distinct (i.e., some children are either bully or victim); and whether certain types of aggression and victimization may be attributed more to males or females. In a relatively early publication, Olweus 1996 discusses the nature of bullying, with emphasis on the duration, nature, and intentions of behaviors. More recently, Hanish, et al. 2013 follows up on the discussion of Olweus’s criteria for bullying with additional considerations of bullying and victimization within different cultures, races, and other identifying groups. Most recently, the book chapter Salmivalli and Peets 2018 presents an interesting discussion of Olweus’s criteria for bullying, and raises important questions about how we specifically interpret those criteria, thus expanding the ways in which we might continue to refine the definition of bullying. Others have applied Olweus’s criteria to cyberbehavior—namely, Thomas, et al. 2015 explores the question of whether cyberbullying is similar to bullying in terms of how we define its problematic nature using the lens of Olweus 1996. With regard to whether certain types of aggression or victimization are different for males and females, an early and influential paper on relational aggression, Crick and Grotpeter 1995, discusses the nature of relational and overt forms of aggression with the suggestion that females are more relationally aggressive than are boys. In a more recent meta-analysis of direct and indirect aggression, Card, et al. 2008 provides an overview of types of aggression and states that indirect aggression does not appear to be representative of one gender over the other. Two other recent papers, Underwood and Ehrenreich 2017 and Wang, et al. 2012, further explore the nature of cyberbullying. Finally, Vlachou, et al. 2011 describes the nature and prevalence of bullying behaviors in preschoolers.

  • Card, N. A., B. Stucky, G. Sawalani, and T. Little. 2008. Direct and indirect aggression during childhood and adolescence: A meta-analytic review of gender differences, intercorrelations, and relations to maladjustment. Child Development 79.5:1185–1229.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-8624.2008.01184.xSave Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This paper reviews various types of aggression that are often studied as representative of bullying or victimization behaviors and presents a meta-analysis of gender differences in direct and indirect aggression. Overall, the authors report higher rates of direct aggression among boys. With regard to indirect aggression, girls may engage in more indirect aggression than boys, but the difference between boys and girls was found to be only trivial.

    Find this resource:

  • Crick, N. R., and J. K. Grotpeter. 1995. Relational aggression, gender, and social-psychological adjustment. Child Development 66.3:710–722.

    DOI: 10.2307/1131945Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    An early study of relational aggression, this frequently cited article presents empirical evidence of the construct in a sample of third through sixth graders. The authors examine gender differences and seek to differentiate between relational aggression and overt aggression. Support was found for a distinction between relational and overt aggression, and the authors report that girls were more likely than boys to engage in relationally aggressive behavior.

    Find this resource:

  • Hanish, L. D., C. P. Bradshaw, D. L. Espelage, P. C. Rodkin, S. M. Swearer, and A. Horne. 2013. Looking toward the future of bullying research: Recommendations for research and funding priorities. Journal of School Violence 12.3:283–295.

    DOI: 10.1080/15388220.2013.788449Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This review article provides a comprehensive discussion of definitional and related measurement issues pertaining to bullying. Particular attention is paid to issues such as repetition, severity, and power. Also, the authors discuss the differences in bullying for variables such as age, gender, sexual orientation, culture, race, and ethnicity. Finally, the authors consider areas in need of additional research.

    Find this resource:

  • Olweus, D. 1996. Bullying at school: Knowledge base and an effective intervention program. In Understanding aggressive behavior in children. Edited by C. F. Ferris and T. Grisso, 265–276. New York: New York Academy of Sciences.

    Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Among Olweus’s frequently cited works, this chapter outlines Olweus’s criteria for bullying. Namely, one must consider the duration of the behavior, the intentions of the actor, and the power balance between the perpetrator and victim. He also refers to the context of the bullying and the relationship between the two parties as important in differentiating bullying from abuse. This article also presents myths about bullying and considers prevalence rates.

    Find this resource:

  • Salmivalli, C., and K. Peets. 2018. Bullying and victimization. In Handbook of peer interactions, relationships, and groups. 2d ed. Edited by W. M. Bukowski, B. Laursen, and K. H. Rubin, 302–321. New York: Guilford Press.

    Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This chapter further explores the definition of bullying. Expanding on the criteria set forth in Olweus 1996, Salmivalli and Peets thoughtfully address (and challenge) whether repetition is a requisite for bullying, how power plays into bullying, and what role “goal-directedness” has in identifying bullying. They also note that not all victimization is necessarily bullying. The chapter also explores prevalence rates, gender differences, and more specific forms of bullying.

    Find this resource:

  • Thomas, H. J., J. P. Connor, and J. G. Scott. 2015. Integrating traditional bullying and cyberbullying: Challenges of definition and measurement in adolescents—A review. Educational Psychology Review 27.1:135–152.

    DOI: 10.1007/s10648-014-9261-7Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This review article is particularly useful in bringing cyberbullying into the conversation about bullying. The authors compare cyberbullying to traditional bullying and argue that the criteria for traditional bullying are appropriate for cyberbullying. Similar to traditional bullying, the authors note that the Olweus 1996 criteria of repetition, power imbalance, and intent to harm are relevant in identifying cyberbullying.

    Find this resource:

  • Underwood, M. K., and S. E. Ehrenreich. 2017. The power and the pain of adolescents’ digital communication: Cyber victimization and the perils of lurking. American Psychologist 72.2:144–158.

    Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This review article provides discussion of the nature of digital communication as well as its impact on youth. A large section of the article reviews literature to date that both defines cyberbullying (given criteria for traditional bullying) and describes prevalence rates across numerous studies. The authors also discuss reasons why cyberbullying might be particularly painful for youth. Distinctions are made according to age of users and digital platform.

    Find this resource:

  • Vlachou, M., E. Andreou, K. Botsoglou, and E. Didaskalou. 2011. Bully/victim problems among preschool children: A review of current research evidence. Educational Psychology Review 23:329–358.

    DOI: 10.1007/s10648-011-9153-zSave Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This thorough review article provides a comprehensive overview of bullying and victimization in preschool-aged children, including prevalence rates. The authors consider both the definition of bullying used in the early years and preschoolers’ definitions of the term bullying. Given that much of the literature focuses on school-aged children and adolescents, it is important to recognize developmental differences and document bullying and victimization in the earliest years.

    Find this resource:

  • Wang, J., R. J. Iannotti, and J. W. Luk. 2012. Patterns of adolescent bullying behaviors: Physical, verbal, exclusion, rumor, and cyber. Journal of School Psychology 50.4:521–534.

    Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This study empirically examines bullying—physical, verbal, social exclusion, rumor spreading, and cyber—in youth in grades six through ten. Using nearly eight thousand students, the authors identified a three-class model of bullying behavior: (a) involved in all types of bullying, (b) verbal/social bullies, and (c) non-involved. Among their findings, girls, seventh and eighth graders, and African Americans were more likely to be in the all types of bullying group.

    Find this resource:

Methodology and Measurement

As there are numerous measures currently being used to assess bullying and victimization in children and adolescents, this section presents articles that provide comprehensive comparisons of measures or overviews of approaches to studying bullying and victimization. Vivolo-Kantor, et al. 2014 provides a detailed overview of forty-one papers that present measures of bullying. The authors provide references that can direct the reader to any of the sources. Similarly, Nelson, et al. 2017 identifies nineteen measures of bullying and aggression for children ages 8–12, with the goal of differentiating between bullying and aggression, especially regarding imbalance of power in the relationship. Crothers and Levinson 2004 similarly reviews ten specific tools for assessing bullying but also guiding assessment and intervention efforts for both school- and non-school-based counselors. Unlike the other articles, Hong and Espelage 2012 discusses the importance of using mixed methods (e.g., both quantitative and qualitative measures) to study bullying and victimization. Espelage and Swearer 2003 presents a meta-analysis, and, although the primary focus is a comparison of traditional and cyberbullying prevalence rates, the authors also provide important discussion of overarching methodological considerations. Huang and Cornell 2015 studies whether item order or presenting a definition of bullying influences results, and Rosen, et al. 2013 examines whether a two- or three-factor model of victimization was more accurate in identifying victimization. Finally, a meta-analysis of peer victimization and internalizing problems, Reijntjes, et al. 2010, demonstrates that both the type of analysis and the use of single versus multiple reporters influences effect sizes. Collectively, the articles are useful for identifying measures and approaches for studying bullying and victimization. The articles also demonstrate, however, that assessment techniques and measures are far from uniform or consistent across studies, a problem discussed in Card and Hodges 2008.

  • Card, N. A., and E. V. E. Hodges. 2008. Peer victimization among schoolchildren: Correlations, causes, consequences, and considerations in assessment and intervention. School Psychology Quarterly 23.4:451–461.

    DOI: 10.1037/a0012769Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Although this article is not specific to measurement, it contains a section that outlines the problem of there being no standardized measure of victimization and goes on to describe self-reports, teacher reports, peer reports, and observational techniques. Advantages and disadvantages of these approaches are discussed. The authors also discuss other considerations such as context of assessment and multiple sources of reporting.

    Find this resource:

  • Crothers, L. M., and E. M. Levinson. 2004. Assessment of bullying: A review of methods and instruments. Journal of Counseling and Development 82.4:496–503.

    DOI: 10.1002/j.1556-6678.2004.tb00338.xSave Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This article discusses the reliability and validity of different approaches to assessing bullying: observations, interviews, sociometrics, surveys, questionnaires, teacher ratings, and self-reports. With regard to measures, the authors consider the purpose, reliability, and validity of ten specific instruments. The article then focuses on informing counselors about best practices for bullying assessment, making a distinction between the goals for individual and systemic intervention programs.

    Find this resource:

  • Espelage, D., and S. M. Swearer. 2003. Research on school bullying and victimization: What have we learned and where do we go from here? School Psychology Review 32.3:365–383.

    DOI: 10.1080/02796015.2003.12086206Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This meta-analysis includes eighty studies of traditional and cyberbullying and victimization in twelve- to eighteen-year-olds. In addition to a comparison of prevalence rates, this article considers important methodological issues that account for systematic differences. Some factors that are considered are whether (a) a definition of bullying is provided, (b) behavioral examples are used, and (c) measures specifically use the word bully. The authors also discuss the need for randomization.

    Find this resource:

  • Hong, J. S., and D. Espelage. 2012. A review of mixed methods research on bullying and peer victimization in school. Educational Review 64.1:115–126.

    DOI: 10.1080/00131911.2011.598917Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    The authors of this paper argue for a mixed methods approach to studying bullying and victimization. They argue a combination of quantitative and qualitative methods can expand our understanding. A search of the literature revealed twenty articles published between 1997 and 2011 that used mixed methods. These studies offer new insights into the phenomenon and demonstrate both complementarity and divergence of findings from qualitative and quantitative research methods.

    Find this resource:

  • Huang, F. L., and D. G. Cornell. 2015. The impact of definition and question order on the prevalence of bullying victimization using student self-reports. Psychological Assessment 27.4:1484–1493.

    DOI: 10.1037/pas0000149Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This article presents a study of over 17,000 high school students aimed at identifying whether presenting a definition of bullying or changing the order of items on a bullying-victimization questionnaire influences prevalence rates. Results indicate that presenting items from specific to general was associated with higher reports of being victimized, but providing a definition of bullying did not influence prevalence rates.

    Find this resource:

  • Nelson, H. J., G. E. Kendall, S. K. Burns, and K. A. Schonert-Reichl. 2017. A scoping review of self-report measures of aggression and bullying for use with preadolescent children. The Journal of School Nursing 33.1:53–63.

    DOI: 10.1177/1059840516679709Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    The authors identify measures of aggression and bullying that specifically distinguish between aggression and bullying through children’s (aged eight to twelve years) report of power imbalance. They report nineteen relevant measures in articles from 1995–2015 and discuss them in terms of measurement of (a) aggression without reference to bullying, (b) aggression without power imbalance (but referred to as bullying), (c) bullying through a “definition first” method, and (d) bullying by a behavioral method.

    Find this resource:

  • Reijntjes, A., J. H. Kamphuis, P. Prinzie, and M. J. Telch. 2010. Peer victimization and internalizing problems in children: A meta-analysis of longitudinal studies. Child Abuse and Neglect 34.4:244–252.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.chiabu.2009.07.009Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This meta-analysis includes eighteen longitudinal studies of associations between peer victimization and internalizing problems (e.g., depression, anxiety, loneliness) to examine internalizing problems as antecedents or consequences of peer victimization or both. Notably, larger effect sizes were found for studies using SEM analyses and studies using the same reporter for victimization and internalizing problems.

    Find this resource:

  • Rosen, L. H., K. J. Beron, and M. K. Underwood. 2013. Assessing peer victimization across adolescence: Measurement invariance and developmental change. Psychological Assessment 25.1:1–11.

    DOI: 10.1037/a0028985Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    In a study of measurement invariance, this longitudinal study examines whether a 1-factor, 2-factor, or 3-factor model of victimization would best fit a sample of data from 125 youths in grades seven through ten. The authors were also interested in measurement equivalency for boys and girls. Factorial invariance was found for a 2-factor model (overt and social) for both boys and girls and at each of the four grade levels.

    Find this resource:

  • Vivolo-Kantor, A. M., B. N. Martell, K. M. Holland, and R. Westby. 2014. A systematic review and content analysis of bullying and cyber-bullying measurement strategies. Aggression and Violent Behavior 19.4:423–434.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.avb.2014.06.008Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This review article examines bullying measurement strategies from forty-one publications between 1985 and 2012, designed primarily for youth aged twelve to twenty years. The authors were interested in differences in data collection methods, definitions, measurement construction, and advantages and disadvantages of measures. The article provides the list of forty-one measures, with an indication of components measured. The authors note discrepancies across measures and suggest additional work to remedy these measurement discrepancies.

    Find this resource:

Correlates and Predictors of Victimization and Bullying

A critical question is to address concerns identifying risk factors for victimization and bullying. Cross-sectional studies allow for an understanding of correlates of victimization and bullying but do not permit conclusions about the direction of effect between potential risk factors and these outcomes. Longitudinal studies (as indicated in the following subsections) provide stronger evidence to suggest that particular factors are predictors of victimization or bullying, and some test models to specify ways in which risk factors and victimization or bullying unfold over time. One way researchers have distinguished among various correlates and predictors is by considering the variety of contexts and domains that affect youth development. As a result, risk factors can be identified at the level of individual-level factors (i.e., personal characteristics); family- and home-level factors; social-level factors (e.g., peer relations); and school-level factors.

Individual-Level Risk Factors

Researchers have considered how personal factors influence the degree to which children and adolescents bully or are victimized by their peers. Although not all of these studies examine only personal factors, these studies investigate individual characteristics of children that are important to our understanding of why some children are more likely to bully or to be victimized. The first group of variables that are highlighted relate to demographics. The meta-analysis Tippett and Wolke 2014 considers socioeconomic status in relation to bullying and victimization. Bettencourt and Farrell 2013 evaluates race and ethnicity as well as personal beliefs about fighting as predictors of victimization in middle schoolers. Urbanicity and race are studied in Goldweber, et al. 2013, a study of middle schoolers. Other research has considered personality, mental health, and behavioral factors that contribute to victimization and bullying status. For instance, Mitsopoulou and Giovazolias 2015 is a meta-analysis examining whether personality traits and empathy are predictive of bullying and victimization. Bierman, et al. 2015 looks at elementary school children’s aggressive-disruptive behaviors and emotional behavior as predictors of victimization. Haynie, et al. 2001 considers how deviant behavior, behavioral problems, depression, and self-control in middle-schoolers predict bully/victim status. Modecki, et al. 2013 looks at the extent to which problem behaviors, depression, self-esteem, and pubertal timing relate to cyberbullying over the course of the middle school years. Luchetti and Rapee 2014 also considers how anxiety and depression can increase children’s likelihood of being victimized. Fanti, et al. 2012 considers callous and unemotional traits, narcissism, and media exposure in relation to cyberbullying and victimization. Finally, Karlsson, et al. 2014 examines the bidirectional effects of victimization and internalizing problems but finds only one direction of effect; specifically, internalizing problems are a risk factor for victimization among the authors’ sample of urban adolescents.

  • Bettencourt, A. F., and A. D. Farrell. 2013. Individual and contextual factors associated with patterns of aggression and peer victimization during middle school. Journal of Youth and Adolescence 42:285–302.

    DOI: 10.1007/s10964-012-9854-8Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    With a focus on heterogeneity of aggressive and nonaggressive youth, this paper considers individual and environmental risk factors that may determine class structure (i.e., aggressive, non-victimized aggressive, predominantly victimized, or well-adjusted victims) within a diverse sample of middle schoolers. Differences were found based on participants’ race or ethnicity, beliefs about fighting and alternatives, and behavioral intentions. Additional findings suggest parents and peers influence adolescents’ likelihood of belonging to a particular class.

    Find this resource:

  • Bierman, K. L., C. B. Kalvin, and B. S. Heinrichs. 2015. Early childhood precursors and adolescent sequelae of grade school peer rejection and victimization. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology 44.3:367–379.

    DOI: 10.1080/15374416.2013.873983Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    The authors examine a sample of children from kindergarten through grade seven. Children who participated were “oversampled for aggressive-disruptive behaviors.” Parents rated children’s aggression, emotional behavior, and internalizing problems; sociometrics were completed; and children reported on social problems, depression, adjustment problems, and delinquent behavior. For victimization (peer nominations of “who gets picked on and teased” in grades two to four), only emotion disregulation predicted victimization. Victimization predicted social problems at grade eight.

    Find this resource:

  • Fanti, K. A., A. G. Demetriou, and V. V. Hawa. 2012. A longitudinal study of cyberbullying: Examining risk and protective factors. European Journal of Developmental Psychology 9.2:168–181.

    DOI: 10.1080/17405629.2011.643169Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This article describes a one-year longitudinal study of eleven- to fourteen-year-olds living in Cyprus. The article focuses on traditional school bullying and victimization, and cyberbullying and cybervictimization. Cyberrelated behaviors were considered in relation to callous unemotional traits, narcissism, impulsivity, violent television exposure, and presence of supportive social relations (family, friend, school staff). Results showed that callous unemotional traits predicted cyberbullying and media violence predicted both cyberbullying and victimization.

    Find this resource:

  • Goldweber, A., T. E. Waasdorp, and C. P. Bradshaw. 2013. Examining associations between race, urbanicity, and patterns of bullying involvement. Journal of Youth and Adolescence 42.2:206–219.

    DOI: 10.1007/s10964-012-9843-ySave Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This study considers how patterns of involvement in bullying (physical, verbal, relational) relate to race and urbanicity in a sample of middle school students. African American youth were more likely to be in the victim or bully victim group than in the low involvement group, and urban youth were most likely to be in the bully victim group followed by the victim and then low involvement group.

    Find this resource:

  • Haynie, D. L., T. Nansel, P. Eitel, et al. 2001. Bullies, victims, and bully/victims: Distinct groups of at-risk youth. Journal of Early Adolescence 21.1:29–49.

    DOI: 10.1177/0272431601021001002Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    The authors examine sixth through eighth graders in order to identify the relation between problem behaviors and bully, victim, bully-victim, and neither bully nor victim status. In addition to bullying and victimization, self-reports determined problem behaviors, behavioral misconduct, deviant peer influences, deviance acceptance, depression, and self-control as well as social competence, school adjustment, school bonding, parental involvement, and parental support. Results indicated bully/victim groups could be differentiated by these variables.

    Find this resource:

  • Karlsson, E., A. Stickley, F. Lindblad, M. Schwab-Stone, and V. Ruchkin. 2014. Risk and protective factors for peer victimization: A 1-year follow-up study of urban American students. European Child and Adolescent Psychiatry 23.9:773–781.

    DOI: 10.1007/s00787-013-0507-6Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    A large urban sample of adolescents completed self-report surveys of victimization, depressive symptoms, anxiety symptoms, and somatic symptoms. After accounting for initial peer victimization, depression, anxiety, and somatic symptoms, the three indicators of internalizing problems in year one predicted peer victimization in year two. The authors discuss possible reasons for why internalizing problems places youth at risk for peer victimization.

    Find this resource:

  • Luchetti, S., and R. M. Rapee. 2014. Liking and perceived probability of victimization of peers displaying behaviors characteristic of anxiety and depression. Journal of Experimental Psychopathology 5.2:212–223.

    DOI: 10.5127/jep.036913Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Often researchers consider anxiety and depression as outcomes of victimization. This study of twelve- to fourteen-year-olds, however, examines whether anxiety and depression are predictors of victimization. Using vignettes, the study finds that anxiety and depression increase children’s likelihood of being victimized, as compared to prosocial children. Results were discussed in terms of how to empower victims.

    Find this resource:

  • Mitsopoulou, E., and T. Giovazolias. 2015. Personality traits, empathy and bullying behavior: A meta-analytic approach. Aggression and Violent Behavior 21:61–72.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.avb.2015.01.007Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    A meta-analysis investigating the associations between personality dimensions, empathy, and bullying, this study includes twenty-seven samples from 143 studies published between 1970–2012 that consider personality traits and measures of empathy as predictors of bullying behavior and victimization. Gender and age effects were also examined. Bullying was most strongly (and negatively) associated with agreeableness, affective empathy, and conscientiousness. Victimization was most strongly associated with conscientiousness (negative) and neuroticism (positive).

    Find this resource:

  • Modecki, K. L., B. L. Barber, and L. Vernon. 2013. Mapping developmental precursors of cyber-aggression: Trajectories of risk predict perpetration and victimization. Journal of Youth and Adolescence 42.5:651–661.

    DOI: 10.1007/s10964-012-9887-zSave Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This study examines eighth to eleventh graders in Australia in order to determine the degree to which problem behaviors, depression, self-esteem, and pubertal timing contribute to both bully and victim cyberaggression over time. Findings indicated a “steeper trajectory” of problem behaviors over three years was predictive of more cyberbullying and victimization. Higher levels of depression and decreases in self-esteem from grades eight to ten predicted more cyberbullying and victimization.

    Find this resource:

  • Tippett, N., and D. Wolke. 2014. Socioeconomic status and bullying: A meta-analysis. American Journal of Public Health 104.6:e48–e59.

    Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This meta-analysis focuses on the relationship between socioeconomic status, victimization, and bullying. Twenty-two studies published between 1970 and 2012 and that included samples of youth between four and eighteen years old were included. Results from twenty-two studies indicated a positive relationship been low socioenconomic status (SES) and victimization; nineteen studies supported a positive relationship between low SES and bullying behavior; and nine studies indicated a positive association between bully-victim status and low SES.

    Find this resource:

Family- and Home-Level Risk Factors

Research explores numerous variables that could potentially explain which students are more likely to bully and which are more likely to be victimized. Among the variables that have been examined are family and home characteristics. This section offers studies that consider several different family and home variables. Boel-Studt and Renner 2013 finds support for family violence, parental monitoring, and parental criticism contributing to different forms of victimization. Gómez-Ortiz, et al. 2016 identifies both negative and positive aspects of parenting styles (e.g., control, humor, communication) that contributed to children’s victimization and bullying behaviors. Ladd and Ladd 1998 reports associations between parental demandingness and responsivity and intense closeness as risk factors for peer victimization. Foster and Brooks-Gunn 2013 indicates that both family and neighborhood instability are associated with school physical victimization. Finally, Holt, et al. 2009 and Shields and Cicchetti 2001 demonstrate the higher risk of peer victimization and bullying behavior for children who are neglected or maltreated by their parents.

  • Boel-Studt, S., and L. M. Renner. 2013. Individual and familial risk and protective correlates of physical and psychological peer victimization. Child Abuse & Neglect 37.12:1163–1174.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.chiabu.2013.07.010Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This study considers parental warmth, monitoring, and criticism; parent-child conflict; and child maltreatment (physical, psychological, neglect) in a sample of ten- to seventeen- year-olds. Adolescents reported physical and psychological peer victimization. Results indicate that family violence increased the likelihood of both physical and psychological peer victimization; parental monitoring increased the likelihood of peer psychological victimization; and parental criticism decreased the likelihood of peer physical victimization.

    Find this resource:

  • Foster, H., and J. Brooks-Gunn. 2013. Neighborhood, family, and individual influences on school physical victimization. Journal of Youth and Adolescence 42.10:1596–1610.

    DOI: 10.1007/s10964-012-9890-4Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Using an ecological systems model, social disorganization theory, and neighborhood effects research, this longitudinal study examines individual, family, school, and neighborhood effects on school victimization at ages six to nine years and again at nine to eleven years. Individual characteristics, residential mobility, and neighborhood exosystem were considered in relation to physical victimization. The researchers found that neighborhood residential and family instability as well as parental aggression place children at greater risk for school victimization.

    Find this resource:

  • Gómez-Ortiz, O., E. M. Romera, and R. Ortega-Ruiz. 2016. Parenting styles and bullying: The mediating role of parental psychological aggression and physical punishment. Child Abuse & Neglect 51:132–143.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.chiabu.2015.10.025Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    The authors examine parenting styles and parental discipline in relation to adolescents’ victimization and bullying behavior. Using a Spanish sample, the authors measured maternal and paternal parenting styles in the areas such as affection and communication, behavioral control, psychological control, punitive discipline, and promotion of autonomy. Overall, the results indicate that parental discipline and behavior influence the likelihood of youths’ involvement in bullying and victimization, with different patterns by gender.

    Find this resource:

  • Holt, M. K., G. K. Kantor, and D. Finkelhor. 2009. Parent/child concordance about bullying involvement and family characteristics related to bullying and peer victimization. Journal of School Violence 8.1:42–63.

    DOI: 10.1080/15388220802067813Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This study of fifth graders considers parents’ awareness of, attitudes toward, and reactions to bullying and peer victimization. The researchers also looked at concordance between child and parent reports of bullying involvement and family factors as predictors of bullying involvement. Results suggest that neglectful parenting, child maltreatment, and domestic violence were associated with victimization and bullying. Child and parent concordance rates were higher for peer victimization than for bullying perpetration.

    Find this resource:

  • Ladd, G. W., and B. K. Ladd. 1998. Parenting behaviors and parent–child relationships: Correlates of peer victimization in kindergarten? Developmental Psychology 34.6:1450–1458.

    DOI: 10.1037/0012-1649.34.6.1450Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This article describes a naturalistic observation study of parent-child relationships in kindergarten children. Parenting behavior (intrusive demandingness, responsiveness) and parent-child behavior (intense closeness) were examined in relation to children’s levels of peer victimization (combination of physical, verbal, and relational aggression). Regression analyses revealed that the parenting behaviors and parent-child behavior were significant predictors of peer victimization (with intense closeness being of concern for boys in particular).

    Find this resource:

  • Shields, A., and D. Cicchetti. 2001. Parental maltreatment and emotion dysregulation as risk factors for bullying and victimization in middle childhood. Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology 30.1:349–363.

    DOI: 10.1207/S15374424JCCP3003_7Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This study considers associations among parental maltreatment (sexual, physical, or emotional abuse, or neglect); emotional difficulties; social behavior; victimization; and bullying in eight- to twelve-year-olds. Results indicated that maltreated children were more likely than nonmaltreated children to be bullies, victims, or bully-victims, with sexually and physically abused children at highest risk. Bullies and victims showed more emotional dysregulation, victims were more withdrawn and submissive, and bullies were more disruptive.

    Find this resource:

Social-Level Risk Factors

There are certain characteristics of children and adolescents within their peer group that make them more or less at risk for bullying and victimization. Both concurrent and longitudinal studies have demonstrated social risk factors from the preschool years through the high school years. Vlachou, et al. 2011 considers preschool bullies and victims, and found differences based on characteristics such as friendship, social exclusion, power, and dominance. Other studies have examined school-aged children. For instance, Rodkin and Berger 2008 studies fourth and fifth graders and found that perceived popularity was a related to bully-victim status. A short-term longitudinal study, Fox and Boulton 2006, reports that submissive and nonassertive social behavior was both predictive of and influenced by peer victimization. Van Noorden, et al. 2016 considers characteristics of bullies, victims, bully-victims, and uninvolved third- to fifth-grade children. Based on children’s ratings of each other, bullies and bully/victims were seen as more antisocial, and uninvolveds were rated more positively on their social characteristics. Card and Hodges 2007 reports that sixth and seventh graders who are in mutually antipathetic relationships are at greater risk for victimization. Sentse, et al. 2015 finds relationships between peer acceptance and rejection, perceived popularity, victimization, and bullying in a longitudinal study of children in grades three to six and seven to nine. Other studies of middle schoolers have included examination of popularity, peer acceptance, and friendship. Coleman and Byrd 2003 and de Bruyn, et al. 2010 find a relationship between popularity, peer acceptance, bullying, and victimization in their sample of middle schoolers. Considering both traditional bullying and cyberbullying, Navarro, et al. 2015 finds that victims had compromised friendships, social reputations, and social support, and bullies had lower self-efficacy combined with higher social reputation. Finally, in a meta-analysis, Kljakovic and Hunt 2016 finds that social problems in adolescence were predictive of both victimization and bullying.

  • Card, N. A., and E. V. E. Hodges. 2007. Victimization within mutually antipathetic peer relationships. Social Development 16.3:479–496.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9507.2007.00394.xSave Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This study explores sixth and seventh graders’ antipathetic relationships. Results indicated that those in antipathetic relationships were most likely to be the victims of aggression when the partner in the mutual antipathetic relationship was aggressive, strong, and not victimized by others. In addition, victimization in these antipathetic relationships was related more strongly to maladjustment (e.g., internalizing problems, low self-worth) as compared to victimization in other relationships.

    Find this resource:

  • Coleman, P. K., and C. P. Byrd. 2003. Interpersonal correlates of peer victimization among young adolescents. Journal of Youth and Adolescence 32.4:301–314.

    DOI: 10.1023/A:1023089028374Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    The authors examine a sample of middle schoolers in order to examine the relationships between victimization, popularity, empathy, and forgiveness. Victimization behaviors included being picked on, saying mean things, saying bad things about someone, and hitting. Using self and teacher reports, there were meaningful associations among the variables—namely, higher popularity was most strongly associated with lower teacher-reported victimization. Aspects of forgiveness were related to self-reported victimization for males only.

    Find this resource:

  • de Bruyn, E. H., A. N. Cillessen, and I. B. Wissink. 2010. Associations of peer acceptance and perceived popularity with bullying and victimization in early adolescence. Journal of Early Adolescence 30.4:543–566.

    DOI: 10.1177/0272431609340517Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This study examines peer acceptance, popularity, and friendship in relation to victimization and bullying in seventh and eighth graders. For bullying: boys tended to bully more, higher peer acceptance and lower perceived popularity were associated with less bullying, and acceptance moderated the relationship between popularity and bullying. For victimization: boys were more victimized, lower peer acceptance and lower perceived popularity predicted higher victimization, and acceptance moderated the link between victimization and popularity.

    Find this resource:

  • Fox, C. L., and M. J. Boulton. 2006. Longitudinal associations between submissive/nonassertive social behavior and different types of peer victimization. Violence and Victims 21.3:383–400.

    DOI: 10.1891/vivi.21.3.383Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This short-term longitudinal study of nine- to eleven-year-olds considers the bidirectional associations between victimization (physical, verbal, social exclusion) and submissive and nonassertive social behavior (SNSB) over a six-month period. SNSB predicted changes in general and verbal victimization and self-reported social exclusion as well as in peer-reported social exclusion, and in turn general victimization and social exclusion predicted changes in SNSB and and peer-reported general and physical victimization and social exclusion also predicted such changes.

    Find this resource:

  • Kljakovic, M., and C. Hunt. 2016. A meta-analysis of predictors of bullying and victimisation in adolescence. Journal of Adolescence 49:134–145.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.adolescence.2016.03.002Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This meta-analysis of eighteen longitudinal and prospective studies examines risk and protective factors for bullying and victimization in adolescence. Four variables were found to be predictive of victimization across sixteen studies: conduct problems, internalizing problems, social problems, and prior victimization. Four variables were found to be predictive of bullying across seven studies: social problems, age, conduct problems, and school problems. Social problems predicted bullying with the largest effect size.

    Find this resource:

  • Navarro, R., S. Yubero, and E. Larrañaga. 2015. Psychosocial risk factors for involvement in bullying behaviors: Empirical comparison between cyberbullying and social bullying victims and bullies. School Mental Health 7.4:235–248.

    DOI: 10.1007/s12310-015-9157-9Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This study examines cyberbullying, traditional social bullying, and child risk factors in ten- to twelve-year-olds. Data was collected for online and face-to-face victimization and bullying behaviors, and for peer attachment, self-efficacy, social support, and social reputation. Victims of cyberbullying, traditional bullying, or both reported lower friendship closeness, social self-efficacy, social support, and social companionship. Cyberbullies, traditional bullies, or both types reported lower social self-efficacy and higher self-reported social reputation.

    Find this resource:

  • Rodkin, P. C., and C. Berger. 2008. Who bullies whom? Social status asymmetries by victim gender. International Journal of Behavioral Development 32.6:473–485.

    DOI: 10.1177/0165025408093667Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This study considers risk factors for bullying and victimization. Fourth and fifth graders completed peer nominations for perceived popularity, physical competence, relational aggression, overt aggression, prosocial behavior, shyness, and likability. Self-ratings and teacher ratings of interpersonal competence were also gathered. Perceived popularity was important in differentiating bully-victim status, and bullies tended to be disliked by their peers.

    Find this resource:

  • Sentse, M., T. Kretschmer, and C. Salmivalli. 2015. The longitudinal interplay between bullying, victimization, and social status: Age-related and gender differences. Social Development 24.3:659–677.

    DOI: 10.1111/sode.12115Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This paper contains a longitudinal examination of two cohorts recruited in grades three to six and seven to nine. Bullying and victimization scores were created by averaging across items assessing different forms of bullying and victimization. Peer acceptance, rejection, and perceived popularity were measured. There were meaningful and complex relationships among peer acceptance, peer rejection, and perceived popularity and victimization and bullying, with different patterns for boys and girls as well as for each cohort.

    Find this resource:

  • van Noorden, T. J., G. T. Haselager, T. M. Lansu, A. N. Cillessen, and W. M. Bukowski. 2016. Attribution of human characteristics and bullying involvement in childhood: Distinguishing between targets. Aggressive Behavior 42.4:394–403.

    DOI: 10.1002/ab.21634Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This study investigates third through fifth graders’ reports of bullies, victims, bully/victims, and uninvolveds. Children rated “human characteristics” (e.g., polite, civilized, amoral) in other children. Bullies attributed more positive characteristics to same-sex peers, and bullies saw bully/victims as more antisocial than victims and uninvolved. For victims, there was greater attribution of positive characteristics to uninvolved than bully or bully/victim groups and greater attribution of antisocial characteristics to bullies and bully/victims than uninvolved.

    Find this resource:

  • Vlachou, M., E. Andreou, K. Botsoglou, and E. Didaskalou. 2011. Bully/victim problems among preschool children: A review of current research evidence. Educational Psychology Review 23.3:329–358.

    DOI: 10.1007/s10648-011-9153-zSave Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This review paper considers preschoolers’ bullying including individual, familial, physical environment, and other contextual factors associated with bullying. Victims tended to lack friends, and bully-victims tended to be anxious, irritating, and reactive to peers. Preschool bullies tended to be in large social clusters and affiliate with other bullies. Girls’ bullying was related to affiliation and exclusion, and boys’ bullying related to power and dominance.

    Find this resource:

School-Level Risk Factors

Most children and adolescents spend considerable time each day in school, and school is the place where much bullying and victimization occurs. Thus researchers have considered school- and classroom-level characteristics that might explain individual differences in children’s victimization and bullying experiences. Although there is not an abundance of articles that consider school risk factors that are associated with victimization and bullying, those that exist present a compelling case for a need for additional research in this area. Studies in this area tend to evaluate elementary and middle school environments more than high school environments. At the broader school level, Vitoroulis, et al. 2016 reports that victimization of minorities depends on the concentration of ethnic minorities at the school. Brighi, et al. 2012 finds that school climate influences direct and indirect victimization, and Schacter and Juvonen 2018 finds that more prosocial school environments were effective at helping children when victimization did occur. Additionally, Dhami, et al. 2005 reports that high-poverty schools were associated with increases in both physical victimization and relational victimization over a school year compared to the reverse trend in low-poverty schools. At the classroom level, Di Stasio, et al. 2016 finds that social comparison and student-teacher relations were predictive of bullying and victimization, respectively, and Espelage and Colbert 2016 is a review chapter that explores the role of the teacher (e.g., beliefs about victimization and perceived ability to deal with victimization) in determining the classroom climate for victimization. Finally, Saarento and colleagues provide two useful articles that consider both classroom- and school-level factors that may influence bullying and victimization. Saarento, et al. 2015 includes topics such as classroom and school demographics and teacher influences, and Saarento, et al. 2013 presents an empirical study of multiple levels of influences in the school environment. Specifically, both works report that classroom size and teacher attitudes are predictive of victimization in the classroom.

  • Brighi, A., A. Guarini, G. Melotti, S. Galli, and M. L. Genta. 2012. Predictors of victimisation across direct bullying, indirect bullying and cyberbullying. Emotional & Behavioural Difficulties 17.3–4:375–388.

    DOI: 10.1080/13632752.2012.704684Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    In a comparative study of traditional victimization and cybervictimization, the authors gathered information from a sample of Italian adolescents. The authors considered both traditional (indirect and direct) and cybervictimization in relation to school climate, self-esteem, and loneliness. Results supported school climate as a potential negative predictor of direct and indirect victimization, and those youth who were traditionally victimized were more likely to be cybervictims as well.

    Find this resource:

  • Dhami, M. K., W. L. Hoglund, B. J. Leadbeater, and E. M. Boone. 2005. Gender-linked risks for peer physical and relational victimization in the context of school-level poverty in first grade. Social Development 14.3:532–549.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9507.2005.00315.xSave Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This study examines school-level poverty as well as children’s behavioral and emotional problems and social competence as predictors of physical and relational victimization during first grade. Over the year, physical victimization increased for boys and girls in high-poverty schools and decreased for girls in low-poverty schools. Girls in low-poverty schools showed a decrease in relational victimization, and both boys and girls in high-poverty schools showed an increase.

    Find this resource:

  • Di Stasio, M. R., R. Savage, and G. Burgos. 2016. Social comparison, competition and teacher–student relationships in junior high school classrooms predicts bullying and victimization. Journal of Adolescence 53:207–216.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.adolescence.2016.10.002Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Researchers investigate how bullying and victimization were associated with characteristics of the classroom (social comparison, competition, cooperation) in a sample of seventh and eighth graders. Additionally, the study examines how teacher-student relationships related to bullying and victimization. Findings indicated that more social comparison in the classroom was associated with more bullying, and lower quality student-teacher relations were predictive of more victimization. Gender was significant for bullying but not for victimization.

    Find this resource:

  • Espelage, D. L., and C. L. Colbert. 2016. School-based bullying: Definition, prevalence, etiology, outcomes, and preventive strategies. In Critical issues in school-based mental health: Evidence-based research, practice, and interventions. Edited by M. K. Holt and A. E. Grills, 132–144. New York: Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group.

    Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This comprehensive chapter considers different aspects of bullying—definitions, prevalence rates, predictors, outcomes, intervention—with a focus on the school environment. The authors provide a review of the limited number of studies that consider the teacher’s role in the classroom and cite several important factors such as teachers’ different responses based on child gender, the teacher’s own beliefs about victimization, and teachers’ self-perceived ability to deal with victimization that influence teachers’ responses.

    Find this resource:

  • Saarento, S., C. F. Garandeau, and C. Salmivalli. 2015. Classroom‐and school-level contributions to bullying and victimization: A review. Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology 25.3:204–218.

    DOI: 10.1002/casp.2207Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This review article provides an overview of research on classroom and school factors that may contribute to bullying and victimization. The article provides thoughtful coverage of topics such as grade level trends; classroom and school demographics (e.g., urban vs. rural schools, ethnic minority vs. ethnic majority;) classroom status hierarchies and bullying/victimization classroom norms; and teacher beliefs and behaviors.

    Find this resource:

  • Saarento, S., A. Kärnä, E. V. E. Hodges, and C. Salmivalli. 2013. Student-, classroom-, and school-level risk factors for victimization. Journal of School Psychology 51.3:421–434.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.jsp.2013.02.002Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This study examines student, classroom, and school factors in relation to victimization in elementary school children. Student predictors included social anxiety and peer rejection; classroom predictors included bullying beliefs, social outcome expectations, and teacher attitudes; and school predictors included teacher attitudes, class and school size, and gender composition. Classroom size was a moderator between victimization and anxiety and rejection; victimization was higher in smaller classes; bullying beliefs, outcome expectations, and teacher attitudes predicted victimization.

    Find this resource:

  • Schacter, H. L., and J. Juvonen. 2018. You’ve got a friend(ly school): Can school prosocial norms and friends similarly protect victims from distress? Social Development 27.3:636–651.

    DOI: 10.1111/sode/12281Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This study considers whether having friends or school-level prosocial norms are protective factors for middle schoolers’ victimization-related distress. Participants came from twenty-six middle schools and were studied in seventh and eighth grades. They found that more prosocial school environments (e.g., students stand up for victims) helped youth even if they were victimized and were friendless. School-level prosocial norms moderated the association between victimization and adjustment for friendless children.

    Find this resource:

  • Vitoroulis, I., H. Brittain, and T. Vaillancourt. 2016. School ethnic composition and bullying in Canadian schools. International Journal of Behavioral Development 40.5:431–441.

    DOI: 10.1177/0165025415603490Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Using a sample of fourth- to eighth-grade Canadian students, this study examines school ethnic make-up and associated patterns of bullying and victimization (general, physical, verbal, social, and cyber). Although bullying was not different across schools based on ethnic differences, there were differences in victimization across schools based on ethnic diversity. For ethnic minorities, a higher concentration of ethnic minorities in a school contributed to less victimization.

    Find this resource:

Consequences of Victimization and Bullying

Considerable attention has been devoted to understanding the consequences of peer victimization and bullying. Evidence from both short-term and longer-term longitudinal studies indicates that negative outcomes for youth who are bullies and for youth who are victimized occur in a number of important domains of life. A substantial body of research confirms increases in Internalizing Distress as well as Externalizing Problems as outcomes of bullying and victimization. In addition, other adjustment problems, including difficulties with school and academic adjustment and problems in peer relations, have emerged as negative outcomes.

Internalizing Distress

Considerable research has been devoted to the outcomes associated with peer victimization, and longitudinal studies confirm that internalizing problems are one such consequence. In an early and often-cited study, Hanish and Guerra 2002 uses a two-year longitudinal study to consider multiple domains of adjustment, including anxious or depressed behavior, as outcomes of victimization. Troop-Gordon and Ladd 2005 shows that changes in victimization predicted changes in internalizing behavior over time and that perceptions of self and peers mediate these associations. Two more recent studies consider depression and anxiety separately as consequences of victimization. Hamilton, et al. 2013 finds that relational victimization is linked with increased depression symptoms but not anxiety. However, Stapinksi, et al. 2014 finds that adolescents experiencing frequent victimization were at increased risk for developing an anxiety disorder. Zwierzynska, et al. 2013 includes multiple measures of internalizing problems and considered victimization’s association with the severity and persistence of those symptoms. With a younger sample, Leadbeater, et al. 2014 is notable for the long follow-up period with data collection waves spanning ages 12 to 27 years. Findings showed the long-term negative effects of peer victimization. Finally, the meta-analysis Gini and Pozzoli 2013 focuses on the association between victimization and psychosomatic complaints. Despite substantial evidence for internalizing problems being a consequence of victimization, the hypothesis that internalizing behavior is both an antecedent and consequence of peer victimization has also received considerable support in studies using a variety of methods and analytic strategies. In an early study of this type, Boivin, et al. 1995 uses a longitudinal sample to test a model with victimization as a mediator between social withdrawal and later depression. More recently and with younger children, Hoglund and Chisholm 2013 finds support for a model in which internalizing problems predicted elevated victimization in the spring, which in turn predicted elevated internalizing problems at the end of the school year.

  • Boivin, M., S. Hymel, and W. M. Bukowski. 1995. The roles of social withdrawal, peer rejection, and victimization by peers in predicting loneliness and depressed mood in childhood. Development and Psychopathology 7.4:765–785.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0954579400006830Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This study uses a longitudinal sample and represents an early and important study for specifying a model of victimization as a mediator of the association between social withdrawal and depression. Specifically, longitudinal support was found for a model in which social withdrawal led to low social preference and peer victimization. In turn, victimization led to increased loneliness, and loneliness then contributed to depression.

    Find this resource:

  • Gini, G., and T. Pozzoli. 2013. Bullied children and psychosomatic problems: A meta-analysis. Pediatrics 132.4:720–729.

    DOI: 10.1542/peds.2013-0614Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This paper presents a meta-analysis of thirty studies that examined the association between bullying and associated psychosomatic complaints (e.g., headache, stomachache, sleeping problems). Confirming an earlier meta-analysis of the same design, this study found that children who are bullied are significantly more likely to report psychosomatic complaints. This finding was supported in both longitudinal and cross-sectional studies.

    Find this resource:

  • Hamilton, J. L., B. G. Shapero, J. P. Stange, E. J. Hamlat, L. Y. Abramson, and L. B. Alloy. 2013. Emotional maltreatment, peer victimization, and depressive versus anxiety symptoms during adolescence: Hopelessness as a mediator. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology 42.3:332–347.

    Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This study considers relational victimization (as well as emotional abuse and neglect) as a predictor of anxiety and depression symptoms over a nine-month period with a sample consisting of roughly half African American adolescents. Relational victimization predicted increases in depression but not anxiety. Further, this effect was not mediated by feelings of hopelessness. The study is important for considering the specificity of victimization as a predictor of anxiety versus depressive symptoms.

    Find this resource:

  • Hanish, L. D., and N. G. Guerra. 2002. A longitudinal analysis of patterns of adjustment following peer victimization. Development and Psychopathology 14:69–89.

    Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    The authors examine the heterogeneity of outcomes of victimization by considering externalizing behavior, internalizing behavior, social adjustment, and academic adjustment. Peer ratings of victimization predicted aggressive behavior, attention problems, delinquent behavior, anxious/depressed behavior, and low popularity after controlling for Time 1 levels of the outcome variable and Time 2 victimization. Cluster analysis identified eight patterns of adjustment, and victimization was associated with the externalizing, disliked, and symptomatic groups.

    Find this resource:

  • Hoglund, W. L. G., and C. A. Chisholm. 2013. Reciprocating risks of peer problems and aggression for children’s internalizing problems. Developmental Psychology 50.2:586–599.

    DOI: 10.1037/a0033617Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Tests three models of how victimization, peer exclusion, and aggression are associated with internalizing problems. The internalizing risk model fits best with two indirect paths to higher levels of internalizing problems. Internalizing problems in the fall predicted elevated victimization in the spring, which in turn predicted elevated internalizing problems at the end of the year. Stable peer victimization from fall to spring predicted elevated internalizing problems by the end of the year.

    Find this resource:

  • Leadbeater, B. J., K. Thompson, and P. Sukhawathanakul. 2014. It gets better or does it? Peer victimization and internalizing problems in the transition to young adulthood. Development and Psychopathology 26.3:675–688.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0954579414000315Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Longitudinal study with five waves spanning ages twelve to twenty-seven investigating physical and relational victimization as predictors of mental health outcomes. At each time point, there were concurrent associations between relational victimization and depression and between relational victimization and anxiety. Also, relational victimization during adolescence predicted increased depressive and anxiety symptoms at later time points. For girls, adolescent physical victimization predicted increases in depression at Time 4 and Time 5.

    Find this resource:

  • Stapinksi, L. A., L. Bowes, D. Wolke, et al. 2014. Peer victimization during adolescence and risk for anxiety disorders in adulthood: A prospective cohort study. Depression and Anxiety 31.7:574–582.

    Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Longitudinal study evaluating overt and relational peer victimization in early adolescence as predictors of anxiety disorders at eighteen years of age. The sample was divided into three groups: no victimization, occasional victimization, and frequent victimization. Adolescents who reported frequent victimization were three times more likely, and those reporting occasional victimization were two times more likely, to develop an anxiety disorder than those who were not victimized.

    Find this resource:

  • Troop-Gordon, W., and G. W. Ladd. 2005. Trajectories of peer victimization and perceptions of the self and schoolmates: Precursors to internalizing and externalizing problems. Child Development 76.5:1072–1091.

    Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This study tests a model showing that changes in victimization from fourth to sixth grade predict changes in internalizing and externalizing behavior, and that perceptions of self and peers mediate these associations. The study is important because it examines mechanisms through which victimization plays a role in psychological adjustment. In addition, the study considers normative trajectories of peer victimization and their association with perceptions of the self and peers.

    Find this resource:

  • Zwierzynska, K., D. Wolke, and T. S. Lereya. 2013. Peer victimization in childhood and internalizing problems in adolescence: A prospective longitudinal study. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology 41.2:309–323.

    DOI: 10.1007/s10802-012-9678-8Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Using a birth cohort of children in the UK, peer victimization was measured with mother, teacher, and child reports at ages seven to ten, and internalizing problems were measured at ages eleven to fourteen years. Childhood victimization was associated with depression and emotional problems in early adolescence, especially severe internalizing problems, and persistent depression symptoms. The study is important because it investigates differences among reporters and uses numerous measures of Internalizing Distress.

    Find this resource:

Externalizing Problems

Although researchers more commonly investigate the link between victimization and internalizing difficulties, some longitudinal studies have demonstrated that victimization and bullying may also be predictive of externalizing difficulties. Kretschmer, et al. 2017 considers outcomes for adolescent bullies and perpetrators and finds that these youth showed an increased risk for delinquent behavior. Perren, et al. 2013 finds that victimization predicted externalizing problems two years later in middle schoolers, with hostile attributions partially mediating the relationship. Yang and McLoyd 2015 similarly finds that victimization is predictive of antisocial behavior from childhood to adolescence, with parent characteristics moderating the relationship for girls only. Pouwels and Cillessen 2013 shows that victimization in first grade is negatively associated with aggression for boys and positively associated with aggression for girls in third grade. Notably, in contrast to these studies, Cillessen and Lansu 2015 finds that victimization becomes less predictive of externalizing behaviors by eighth grade. Other studies have considered the relative likelihood of externalizing and internalizing problems. For instance, Kretschmer, et al. 2015 compares potential internalizing and externalizing difficulties resulting from victimization in a sample of adolescents and finds that internalizing difficulties were more likely than externalizing difficulties. In another study, van Lier, et al. 2012 considers the links between externalizing problems, internalizing problems, and victimization. Here, there was limited support for a model in which externalizing problems at age six predicted internalizing problems at age eight via peer victimization at age seven. Finally, a meta-analysis, Reijntjes, et al. 2011, finds that victimization predicts increases in externalizing problems over time, but externalizing problems also predicts changes in victimization over time, suggesting a bidirectional relationship between the two.

  • Cillessen, A. H. N., and T. A. M. Lansu. 2015. Stability, correlates, and time-covarying associations of peer victimization from grade 4 to 12. Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology 44.3:456–470.

    DOI: 10.1080/15374416.2014.958841Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This longitudinal study of Grades four through twelve examines stability of victimization and its association with externalizing behavior, peer sociability, school competence, academic functioning, and internalizing behavior. The authors hypothesize that the association between victimization and all variables except internalizing behaviors will decrease over time. The authors find stability in victimization over time, and that only peer sociability remains associated with victimization from grade eight onward.

    Find this resource:

  • Kretschmer, T., E. D. Barker, J. K. Dijkstra, A. J. Oldehinkel, and R. Veenstra. 2015. Multifinality of peer victimization: Maladjustment patterns and transitions from early to mid-adolescence. European Child and Adolescent Psychiatry 24.10:1169–1179.

    DOI: 10.1007/s00787-014-0667-zSave Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    In order to investigate the relative likelihood of different types of maladjustment that may result from victimization, this longitudinal study of Dutch adolescents examines delinquency and aggression (externalizing) in combination with withdrawal and anxiety (internalizing) as consequences of victimization. Analyses indicated that, overall, internalizing problems appear to be more likely outcomes of victimization than externalizing problems.

    Find this resource:

  • Kretschmer, T., R. Veenstra, M. Deković, and A. J. Oldehinkel. 2017. Bullying development across adolescence, its antecedents, outcomes, and gender-specific patterns. Development and Psychopathology 29.3:941–955.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0954579416000596Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This longitudinal study considers predictors and consequences of adolescents’ peer victimization perpetration. Latent growth models revealed that bullying perpetration decreased over time, and more bullying perpetration was associated with increased withdrawal, delinquency, aggression, smoking, and drug use (stronger association for girls). The author also reports that dysfunctional family background combined with low self-control and peer rejection increases the likelihood of bullying, which then increases substance abuse risk.

    Find this resource:

  • Perren, S., I. Ettekal, and G. Ladd. 2013. The impact of peer victimization on later maladjustment: Mediating and moderating effects of hostile and self-blaming attributions. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 54.1:46–55.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1469-7610.2012.02618.xSave Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This study examines hostile attribution (grade six) as a mediator between peer victimization (grade five) and externalizing problems (grade seven) and self-blaming attribution (grade six) as a mediator between peer victimization (grade five) and internalizing problems (grade seven). Results indicated that victimization predicted increases in externalizing problems, with hostile attribution as a mediator. Although victimization also predicted increases in internalizing problems, the role of self-blame did not mediate in the predicted way.

    Find this resource:

  • Pouwels, J. L., and A. H. N. Cillessen. 2013. Correlates and outcomes associated with aggression and victimization among elementary-school children in a low-income urban context. Journal of Youth and Adolescence 42.2:190–205.

    DOI: 10.1007/s10964-012-9875-3Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This longitudinal study (grades one through three) evaluates aggression and victimization, as well as social and behavioral variables (e.g., friendship, prosocial behavior, social impact), in a low-income, urban sample. In grades two and three victimization were correlated, and in grades one and two victimization and aggression were correlated. Victimization in grade one was negatively associated with aggression in grade three for boys and positively for girls, and aggression better predicted problems over time.

    Find this resource:

  • Reijntjes, A., J. H. Kamphuis, P. Prinzie, P. A. Boelen, M. van der Schoot, and M. J. Telch. 2011. Prospective linkages between peer victimization and externalizing problems in children: A meta-analysis. Aggressive Behavior 37.3:215–222.

    DOI: 10.1002/ab.20374Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This meta-analysis of prospective studies considers how peer victimization predicts changes in externalizing behaviors (ten studies), as well as how externalizing problems predict changes in victimization over time (eight studies). Findings indicated that peer victimization predicted increases in externalizing problems over time, and that externalizing problems predicted increases in victimization over time. Effect sizes were equal, indicating a bidirectional relationship.

    Find this resource:

  • van Lier, P. A. C., F. Vitaro, E. D. Barker, M. Brendgen, R. E. Tremblay, and M. Boivin. 2012. Peer victimization, poor academic achievement, and the link between childhood externalizing and internalizing problems. Child Development 83.5:1775–1788.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-8624.2012.01802.xSave Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    The authors test a cascade model in which externalizing problems lead to internalizing problems through the mediating effects of peer victimization and academic problems across the transition from preschool to elementary school. Results show a significant link from externalizing problems at age six to externalizing problems at age eight through peer victimization at age seven. Support for the indirect link from externalizing to internalizing problems through peer victimization was only marginally significant.

    Find this resource:

  • Yang, G. S., and V. C. McLoyd. 2015. Do parenting and family characteristics moderate the relation between peer victimization and antisocial behavior? A 5-year longitudinal study. Social Development 24.4:748–765.

    DOI: 10.1111/sode.12118Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This longitudinal study (ages eight to fourteen Time 1; ages thirteen to nineteen Time 2) examines associations among peer victimization, child antisocial behavior, maternal warmth, mother-child communication, and family conflict. For girls, maternal warmth, family communication, and family conflict moderated the relationship between victimization at Time 1 and antisocial behavior at Time 2. For boys, victimization at Time 1 was associated with higher antisocial behavior at Time 2, without parent or family variables moderating the relationship.

    Find this resource:

Other Consequences

In addition to studying internalizing and externalizing difficulties in relation to bullying and victimization, researchers continue to be interested in a host of Consequences of Victimization and Bullying. In the interest of providing a range of articles that best capture this area, five longitudinal studies, two review articles, and one meta-analysis are described in this section. The longitudinal Cross, et al. 2015 explores both traditional and cyberbullying as well as victimization over a two-year period beginning in eighth grade. The authors find that being the victim of multiple forms of victimization places youth at risk for missing school and experiencing emotional difficulties. Barchia and Bussey 2010 finds that rumination, school- and self-efficacy, teachers’ reactions, and friend support help to predict the relationship between victimization and internalizing difficulties.Van Lier and Koot 2010 and Kochel, et al. 2012 consider the complex relationships among victimization, peer acceptance and rejection, and later externalizing and internalizing difficulties with a focus on temporal ordering of problems. Using a different type of approach than most researchers, Calhoun, et al. 2014 finds that relational victimization produces a physiological stress response in friendship dyads. Finally, Salmivalli and Isaacs 2005 finds support for victimization predicting peer problems. The meta-analysis Nakamoto and Schwartz 2009 focuses on victimization and academics. Troop-Gordon 2017 provides a review of literature on victimization and distinct adolescent problems, with a focus on how adolescent victimization is unique from victimization during other stages of development. The thorough review Arseneault 2018 covers both childhood and adolescence, and focuses on how victimization relates to a host of outcomes, including adjustment problems, criminal behavior, and socioeconomic problems. Together, these articles provide an overview of potential outcomes associated with victimization and bullying, and several also provide implications for intervention and prevention and ideas for future research.

  • Arseneault, L. 2018. The persistent and pervasive impact of being bullied in childhood and adolescence: implications for policy and practice. In Special issue: Annual research review: Reimagining the environment in developmental psychopathology: From molecules to effective treatments. Edited by Pasco Fearon. The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 59.4:405–421.

    DOI: 10.111/jcpp.12841Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This article reviews literature on the impact of bullying victimization in childhood and adolescence. The comprehensive overview of previous literature focuses on adjustment difficulties, mental health problems, adult outcomes, physical problems, criminal outcomes, and socioeconomic problems. In addition to reviewing studies on outcomes of bullying victimization, the author also discusses the importance of building resilience in victims, antibullying policy, intervention and prevention efforts, and questions for future research.

    Find this resource:

  • Barchia, K., and K. Bussey. 2010. The psychological impact of peer victimization: Exploring social-cognitive mediators of depression. Journal of Adolescence 33.5:615–623.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.adolescence.2009.12.002Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This study investigates various social-cognitive mediators of the link between peer victimization and depression in adolescence. Significant indirect paths show that victimization is associated with later depression via depression rumination, sense of efficacy in students’ and teachers’ ability to stop aggression, and sense of efficacy in getting support from a friend.

    Find this resource:

  • Calhoun, C. D., S. W. Helms, N. Heilbron, K. D. Rudolph, P. D. Hastings, and M. J. Prinstein. 2014. Relational victimization, friendship, and adolescents’ hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis responses to an in vivo social stressor. In Special issue: The legacy of Nicki R. Crick's contributions to developmental psychopathology. Edited by Dante Cicchetti and Dianna Murray-Close. Development and Psychopathology 26.3:605–618.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0954579414000261Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    In this lab-based study of best friend dyads, peer victimization was conceptualized as a stressor that might be linked with biological responses. After participating in a social stressor task, friends discussed their performance, and the friends’ responsiveness was coded. Physical and relational victimization, positive and negative friendship quality, and friend responsiveness were tested as predictors of cortisol reactivity and cortisol recovery. Relational victimization was associated with blunted cortisol reactivity.

    Find this resource:

  • Cross, D., L. Lester, and A. Barnes. 2015. A longitudinal study of the social and emotional predictors and consequences of cyber and traditional bullying victimisation. International Journal of Public Health 60.2:207–217.

    DOI: 10.1007/s00038-015-0655-1Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This article presents a two-year study of traditional and cyberbullying and victimization patterns beginning in grade eight in Australia. Physical, relational, and verbal traditional victimization and cyberbullying were measured and examined in relation to victimization impact, absenteeism, help-seeking behavior, and social and emotional well-being. Among the results, being victimized in multiple forms places children at a greater risk for staying away from school and experiencing emotional difficulties.

    Find this resource:

  • Kochel, K. P., G. W. Ladd, and K. D. Rudolph. 2012. Longitudinal associations among youth depressive symptoms, peer victimization, and low peer acceptance: An interpersonal process perspective. Child Development 83.2:637–650.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-8624.2011.01722.xSave Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    A longitudinal study of fourth through sixth graders supporting a symptoms-driven model in which depressive symptoms lead to peer difficulties. There was no support for a transactional model or a model whereby peer difficulties antecede depression. Across two lags, depressive symptoms predicted peer victimization, and a mediation model suggested that fourth-grade depressive symptoms predicted fifth-grade peer victimization, which in turn predicted sixth-grade low peer acceptance.

    Find this resource:

  • Nakamoto, J., and D. Schwartz. 2009. Is peer victimization associated with academic achievement? A meta-analytic review. Social Development 19.2:221–242.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9507.2009.00539.xSave Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    A meta-analysis of thirty-three studies that look at the association between victimization and indicators of academic achievement. Studies included elementary, middle, and high school students, and used concurrent measures (there were too few longitudinal studies to be included). Overall, a small but significant association was found between higher victimization and compromised academic achievement, with no significant differences for boys and girls.

    Find this resource:

  • Salmivalli, C., and J. Isaacs. 2005. Prospective relations among victimization, rejection, friendlessness, and children’s self- and peer-perceptions. Child Development 76.6:1161–1171.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-8624.2005.00842.xSave Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    In a longitudinal study, three “peer adversities”—victimization, rejection, and friendlessness—were considered as predictors and consequences of negative self-perceptions and peer perceptions. Negative self-perceptions predicted all three peer problems. Victimization and rejection predicted increasingly negative peer perceptions. In addition, rejection at one time was associated with victimization at the next time. These findings support transactional models between children’s perceptions and their peer relations.

    Find this resource:

  • Troop-Gordon, W. 2017. Peer victimization in adolescence: The nature, progression, and consequences of being bullied within a developmental context. Journal of Adolescence 55:116–128.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.adolescence.2016.12.012Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This review article focuses on identifying how victimization in adolescence is distinct from victimization during other stages of development. In addition to coverage of developmental changes in victimization; unique risk factors in adolescence (e.g., puberty); and unique social contexts of adolescence (e.g., dating), Troop-Gordon discusses the intensified risk of internalizing difficulties, suicidal behavior, eating disorders, and delinquency in adolescence that makes the consequences of victimization unique during adolescence.

    Find this resource:

  • van Lier, P. A. C., and H. M. Koot. 2010. Developmental cascades of peer relations and symptoms of externalizing and internalizing problems from kindergarten to fourth-grade elementary school. Development and Psychopathology 22.3:569–582.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0954579410000283Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Presents a developmental cascade model of internalizing and externalizing symptomatology and peer relations problems. Externalizing Problems were associated with peer victimization, friendlessness, and low social preference. Overall, developmental cascades from externalizing to internalizing problems occur through problems in peer relations, especially rejection and victimization. However, victimization did not contribute directly to internalizing or externalizing problems over and above its association with peer rejection, and Internalizing Distress did not forecast victimization.

    Find this resource:

The Role of Friendship as a Moderator

Although one goal of research on bullying and victimization focuses on identifying direct and indirect associations between antecedent variables and victimization or between victimization and various consequences, another goal is to better understand moderators of these associations. Such studies are aimed primarily at determining what factors might buffer or protect children and adolescents from victimization even in the presence of risk factors or, alternatively, what factors might moderate the link between victimization and negative outcomes and thus protect youth from the negative consequences of victimization. Dyadic friendships are one such moderator, and there is evidence to suggest that aspects of friendship function both as moderators of the association between risk factors and victimization and as moderators of the association between victimization and negative outcomes.

Friendship as a Moderator between Risk Factors and Victimization

One line of research considers friendship as a protective factor, buffering against peer victimization that results from other risk factors. Multiple dimensions of friendship—including having a friend, number of friends, friendship quality, and characteristics of friends—have been investigated, and evidence suggests that friendship often mitigates associations between risk factors and peer victimization. In an early cross-sectional study, Bollmer, et al. 2005 considers internalizing and externalizing behaviors as risk factors showing that friendship quality and internalizing behavior have independent effects on victimization. Fox and Boulton 2006 investigates the moderating effect of six different aspects of peer relations and shows that having many friends and having a best friend who is well-liked protected against victimization for children with social skills problems. Friends’ prosociality is another characteristic of friends that has been found to protect against victimization for children high on reactive aggression, as evidenced in Lamarche, et al. 2006. Hodges, et al. 1997 finds that friend characteristics (e.g., providing protection, friends’ victimization) and having more friends buffers against victimization for youth with Individual-Level Risk Factors. Schwartz, et al. 2000 finds that having many friends also serves a protective function against victimization for children who experienced a harsh home environment, and Schwartz, et al. 1999 finds this to be true for children who display a myriad of early behavior and social problems. The buffering effect has been considered in a variety of samples. For example, Kawabata, et al. 2010 shows that friendship quality protects against victimization for Japanese students with high levels of relational aggression, and Cardoos and Hinshaw 2011 finds that having a mutual friend moderates the link between various risk factors and victimization for girls with ADHD.

  • Bollmer, J. M., R. Milich, M. J. Harris, and M. A. Maras. 2005. A friend in need: The role of friendship quality as a protective factor in peer victimization and bullying. Journal of Interpersonal Violence 20.6:701–712.

    DOI: 10.1177/0886260504272897Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This study considers friendship quality as a moderator of the link between internalizing and externalizing behavior and bullying and victimization. In predicting victimization, both friendship quality and internalizing behaviors have independent effects. In contrast, the effect of externalizing behavior on bullying is moderated by friendship quality such that for children with high levels of externalizing behavior, those with a high-quality friendship were less likely to bully others.

    Find this resource:

  • Cardoos, S. L., and S. P. Hinshaw. 2011. Friendship as protection from peer victimization for girls with and without ADHD. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology 39.7:1035–1045.

    DOI: 10.1007/s10802-011-9517-3Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This study considers friendship as a moderator of the association between individual risk and overt and relational victimization for girls with and without ADHD during a summer camp. For all three predictors—internalizing behavior, externalizing behavior, and social competence—girls with at least one mutual friend were protected against victimization. This protective effect was similar for girls with and without ADHD.

    Find this resource:

  • Fox, C. L., and M. J. Boulton. 2006. Friendship as a moderator of the relationship between social skills problems and peer victimisation. Aggressive Behavior 32.2:110–121.

    DOI: 10.1002/ab.20114Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This study evaluates social skills problems as predictors of changes in victimization. Six measures of friendship and peer relations were considered as moderators of this association: number of friends; presence of a best friend; social preference; and victimization, social preference, and social skills problems of the best friend. The link between social skills problems and victimization was weaker for children with many friends and for children whose best friend was well-liked.

    Find this resource:

  • Hodges, E. V. E., M. Boivin, F. Vitaro, and W. M. Bukowski. 1999. The power of friendship: Protection against an escalating cycle of peer victimization. Developmental Psychology 35.1:94–101.

    DOI: 10.1037/0012-1649.35.1.94Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This study finds support for internalizing and externalizing behavior as both antecedents and consequences of victimization. Having a friend high on providing protection buffered against victimization for youth with internalizing problems. In addition, the moderating role of friendship was found when internalizing and externalizing behaviors were considered as outcomes of victimization. Victimization predicted increases in internalizing and Externalizing Problems over the year for children without but not with a friend.

    Find this resource:

  • Hodges, E. V. E., M. J. Malone, and D. G. Perry. 1997. Individual risk and social risk as interacting determinants of victimization in the peer group. Developmental Psychology 33.6:1032–1039.

    DOI: 10.1037/0012-1649.33.6.1032Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Using concurrent analyses, the authors evaluate whether the number of reciprocal friends children have and the characteristics of those friends moderate the association of behavioral risk with peer victimization. This association decreases as the number of friends increases. In addition, as friends’ victimization increases, the association between the behavioral risk variables and children’s victimization increases. Furthermore, as friends’ physical strength increases, the link between risk variables and victimization decreases.

    Find this resource:

  • Kawabata, Y., N. R. Crick, and Y. Hamaguchi. 2010. Forms of aggression, social-psychological adjustment, and peer victimization in a Japanese sample: The moderating role of positive and negative friendship quality. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology 38.4:471–484.

    DOI: 10.1007/s10802-010-9386-1Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    In a study with Japanese students, friendship quality moderated the association between Time 1 and Time 2 relational aggression. The stability of relational aggression was strong for fourth- and fifth-grade children with low-quality friendships. In addition, the association between relational aggression and increases in relational victimization was moderated by positive friendship quality such that the link was found only for children with low levels of positive friendship features.

    Find this resource:

  • Lamarche, V., M. Brendgen, M. Boivin, F. Vitaro, D. Pérusse, and G. Dionne. 2006. Do friendships and sibling relationships provide protection against peer victimization in a similar way? Social Development 15.3:373–393.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9507.2006.00347.xSave Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    The authors investigate friends’ and siblings’ prosocial behavior as a moderator of the link between aggression and victimization. Both friends’ prosociality and siblings’ prosociality served as moderators such that reactive aggression was associated with victimization for children with friends or siblings with low or moderate prosociality but not high prosociality. These findings show the protective effect of two relationships and highlight friends’ prosociality as a buffer against victimization.

    Find this resource:

  • Schwartz, D., K. A. Dodge, G. S. Pettit, and J. E. Bates. 2000. Friendship as a moderating factor in the pathway between early harsh home environment and later victimization in the peer group: The Conduct Problems Prevention Research Group. Developmental Psychology 36.5:646–662.

    DOI: 10.1037/0012-1649.36.5.646Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    In two studies, the authors consider friendship as a moderator between harsh home environment in preschool and peer victimization in elementary school. In the first study, five measures of harsh home environment predicted later victimization, and for all five variables, the link between early home environment and victimization weakened as the number of friendships increased. In the second study, parental restrictive discipline and maternal hostility before first grade predicted later victimization for children with few friends.

    Find this resource:

  • Schwartz, D., S. McFadyen-Ketchum, K. A. Dodge, G. S. Pettit, and J. E. Bates. 1999. Early behavior problems as a predictor of later peer group victimization: Moderators and mediators in the pathways of social risk. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology 27.3:191–201.

    DOI: 10.1023/a:1021948206165Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    The findings suggest that peer relations serve as both moderators and mediators of the link between early behavior problems and later peer victimization. First, behavior and social problems in kindergarten and first grade predicted victimization in third and fourth grade. Second, social preference mediated the prediction of victimization from externalizing behavior problems. Third, the number of friends moderated some of the associations between early problems and later victimization.

    Find this resource:

Friendship as a Moderator between Victimization and Negative Outcomes

Numerous aspects of friendship appear to serve a protective function by buffering youth against negative outcomes associated with peer victimization. Several studies have considered friendship as a moderator of the associations between victimization and internalizing or externalizing behavior problems. The characteristics of children’s friends help determine the effect of victimization on adjustment outcomes. Brendgen, et al. 2013 shows that friends’ level of victimization moderate the link between victimization and aggression and depression, and with the same sample, Lamarche, et al. 2007 shows that peer victimization predicts increasing reactive aggression for boys with friends who were reactively aggressive. Other studies suggest the importance of high-quality friendships. Having supportive friends protects against Internalizing Distress for youth experiencing victimization as demonstrated in Thompson and Leadbeater 2013, and conflict with a best friend mediated the association between victimization and externalizing behavior as reported in You and Bellmore 2012. In addition, friends’ characteristics moderate the link between victimization and academic functioning. Schwartz, et al. 2008 shows that peer victimization is associated with decreases in academic functioning for children with many aggressive friends. Tu, et al. 2012 finds associations between victimization and lower academic competence for adolescents whose friends are low on prosocial skills or high on social anxiety.

  • Brendgen, M., F. Vitaro, E. D. Barker, A. Girard, G. Dionne, and R. E. Tremblay. 2013. Do other people’s plights matter? A genetically informed twin study of the role of social context in the link between peer victimization and children’s aggression and depression symptoms. Developmental Psychology 49.2: 327–340.

    DOI: 10.1037/a0025665Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This study investigates the link between peer victimization and aggression and depression symptoms and considers children’s own experience of victimization as well as their friends’ and classmates’ victimization. Boys’ own victimization was related to aggression only when their friends experienced high victimization. Children’s own frequent victimization was related to depression for children with friends experiencing low levels of victimization; high victimization and low friend victimization predicted higher depression.

    Find this resource:

  • Lamarche, V., M. Brendgen, M. Boivin, F. Vitaro, G. Dionne, and D. Pérusse. 2007. Do friends’ characteristics moderate the prospective links between peer victimization and reactive and proactive aggression? Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology 35.4:665–680.

    DOI: 10.1007/s10802-007-9122-7Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Distinguishes reactive and proactive aggression and considers whether victimization predicts increases in either. Victimization marginally predicted reactive aggression at Time 2. The link was not moderated by friends’ aggression. The reactive aggression of recent friends at Time 2 moderated the association between Time 1 victimization and Time 2 reactive aggression for boys. For boys with friends showing moderate or high levels of reactive aggression, peer victimization predicted increasing reactive aggression.

    Find this resource:

  • Schwartz, D., A. H. Gorman, K. A. Dodge, G. S. Pettit, and J. E. Bates. 2008. Friendships with peers who are low or high in aggression as moderators of the link between peer victimization and declines in academic functioning. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology 36.5:719–730.

    DOI: 10.1007/s10802-007-9200-xSave Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Friends’ level of aggression was evaluated as a moderator of the link between peer victimization and academic functioning. In Study 1, peer victimization predicted decreases in GPA for children with more aggressive friends compared to children with few or a medium number of aggressive friends and for children with few nonaggressive friends. In Study 2, peer victimization was associated with declines in GPA for children with many aggressive friends.

    Find this resource:

  • Thompson, R. S. Y., and B. J. Leadbeater. 2013. Peer victimization and internalizing symptoms from adolescence into young adulthood: Building strength through emotional support. Journal of Research on Adolescence 23.2:290–303.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1532-7795.2012.00827.xSave Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This longitudinal study across four years of adolescence investigates associations between relational and physical victimization and internalizing symptoms, considering parents’ and friends’ emotional support as moderators. Increases in relational victimization for boys and girls and in physical victimization for girls were linked with concurrent increases in internalizing symptoms. Support from friends moderated the link between victimization and Internalizing Distress, yet findings differed for early versus late adolescents and for gender.

    Find this resource:

  • Tu, K. M., S. A. Erath, and K. S. Flanagan. 2012. Can socially adept friends protect peer- victimized early adolescents against lower academic competence? Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology 33.1:24–30.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.appdev.2011.09.002Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This study of sixth and seventh graders examines whether characteristics of friends, specifically prosocial skills and social anxiety, moderate the link between adolescents’ victimization and their academic competence. Peer victimization was associated with lower academic competence for adolescents whose friends were low but not high on prosocial skills and for adolescents whose friends had higher but not lower levels of social anxiety. This study highlights the buffering effects of friendship.

    Find this resource:

  • You, J- I., and A. Bellmore. 2012. Relational peer victimization and psychosocial adjustment: The mediating role of best friendship qualities. Personal Relationships 19.2:340–353.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-6811.2011.01365.xSave Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    The findings support the quality of friendships as a mediator of the link between relational victimization and adjustment. Relational victimization showed direct associations with both externalizing and internalizing behaviors and was indirectly associated with higher levels of internalizing distress through the association with help and conflict. In contrast, relational victimization was indirectly associated with higher levels of externalizing behavior through its association with conflict.

    Find this resource:

Intervention Research

Although there has been a significant amount of research investigating the nature of bullying and victimization in children and adolescents over the past three decades, empirically based research on successful interventions is not as plentiful. This section includes articles that discuss three specific antibullying programs and another that discusses the role of bystanders, articles that consider broader considerations of what intervention programs should address, and an article that presents a meta-analysis of published intervention studies. There are several intervention programs that have shown promising results: the KiVa anti-bullying program, the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program, and the FearNot! Program. Kaufman, et al. 2018 presents an overview of KiVa as well as results of a two-year follow-up study of the program, which notably considers why intervention might not work for some youth. Similarly, van der Ploeg, et al. 2016 presents results from a study of the KiVa program that adds in a support group component and tests its effectiveness. Olweus and Limber 2010 provides information on the Olweus program, and gives an overview of its effectiveness in Norway and in the United States based on published studies. Sapouna, et al. 2010 discusses the FearNot! intervention program that uniquely uses a virtual learning environment to teach children how to deal with victimization. An empirical paper, Salmivalli, et al. 2011, is also included because it focuses on the role of peer bystanders’ roles in relation to both bullies and victims, a newer approach to trying to curb bullying and victimization behaviors. Other papers such as Furlong, et al. 2003 are helpful in providing an overview of concepts that should be considered by researchers and educators when developing prevention and intervention programs, and Hawley and Williford 2015 similarly presents theories in support of intervention work. In Child Development Perspectives, Saarento and Salmivalli 2015 makes important statements about classroom ecologies and bystanders in trying to understand how to approach school-based interventions. Finally, Ttofi and Farrington 2011 provides a comprehensive meta-analysis of published intervention research which demonstrates an overall promising reduction of victimization and bullying after intervention.

  • Furlong, M. J., G. M. Morrison, and J. L. Greif. 2003. Reaching an American consensus: Reactions to the special issue on school bullying. School Psychology Review 32.3:456–470.

    DOI: 10.1080/02796015.2003.12086212Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This article reviews School Psychology Review’s special issue on bullying. After brief review of the six articles in the special issue, the authors discuss implications of the research—community level, schoolwide level, and individual student level—for researchers, school psychologists, practitioners, and policymakers. The article also describes state policies and practices on bullying at the time of publication. Overall the article is useful in guiding thinking about prevention and intervention for bullying.

    Find this resource:

  • Hawley, P. H., and A. Williford. 2015. Articulating the theory of bullying intervention programs: Views from social psychology, social work, and organizational science. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology 37:3–15.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.appdev.2014.11.006Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This article, part of a special issue on bullying prevention and intervention, examines the nature of school-based intervention programs. The authors focus on definitional aspects of bullying; the nature of power; and the theory of planned behavior (e.g., how it applies to perceptions of and attitudes toward bullying, and reporting or intervening with bullying). The article also visits theories (e.g., ecological systems theory) in order to understand social structures.

    Find this resource:

  • Kaufman, T. M. L., T. Kretschmer, G. Huitsing, and R. Veenstra. 2018. Why does a universal anti-bullying program not help all children? Explaining persistent victimization during an intervention. Prevention Science 19.6:822–832.

    DOI: 10.1007/s11121-018-0906-5Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This study considers the effects of the KiVa anti-bullying program (or a control group) two years after the intervention was implemented. The study of over 6000 Dutch students was particularly concerned with how social standing, child characteristics, and parent-child factors could explain why intervention did not work for some children. Notably, persistently victimized children tended to have higher internalizing and parent-child relationship problems and were more rejected by their peers.

    Find this resource:

  • Olweus, D., and S. P. Limber. 2010. Bullying in school: Evaluation and dissemination of the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry 80.1:124–134.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1939-0025.2010.01015.xSave Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This paper considers the effectiveness of the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program, as described in evaluations of the program in Norway and in the United States. The program has proven to be highly effective in Norway but has been inconsistent in the United States. The implications of these results are discussed.

    Find this resource:

  • Saarento, S., and C. Salmivalli. 2015. The role of classroom peer ecology and bystanders’ responses to bullying. Child Development Perspectives 9.4:201–205.

    DOI: 10.1111/cdep.12140Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This paper contains a concise overview of classroom and peer considerations for bullying prevention and intervention efforts. The influence of classroom peer ecologies (e.g., social status of aggressive children in more or less hierarchical classrooms) and the role of bystanders (e.g., students who are defenders versus reinforcers versus outsiders) are discussed. Classroom ecologies and bystander behaviors are then considered in terms of their importance to school-based intervention programs.

    Find this resource:

  • Salmivalli, C., M. Voeten, and E. Poskiparta. 2011. Bystanders matter: Associations between reinforcing, defending, and the frequency of bullying behaviors in classrooms. Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology 40.5:668–676.

    DOI: 10.1080/15374416.2011.597090Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This study of children aged nine to eleven years examines how bystanders affect bullying behavior. Students reported the degree to which they were bullied, their attitudes about bullying, their empathy toward victims, and how each student in the class responds to bullying. Findings showed that the degree of classroom bullying was related to the amount of defending and reinforcing. Lower empathy and more positive bullying attitudes were associated with more bullying.

    Find this resource:

  • Sapouna, M., D. Wolke, N. Vannini, et al. 2010. Virtual learning intervention to reduce bullying victimization in primary school: A controlled trial. The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 51.1:104–112.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1469-7610.2009.02137.xSave Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Children ages seven to eleven years old enrolled in schools in the UK and Germany took part in a virtual learning environment (FearNot!) designed to teach them problem-solving skills in the face of victimization. The experimental group engaged with an interactive virtual school that portrayed bullying scenarios over a period of three weeks. Compared to the control group, the experimental group was more likely to escape victimization at one week after intervention.

    Find this resource:

  • Ttofi, M. M., and D. P. Farrington. 2011. Effectiveness of school-based programs to reduce bullying: A systematic and meta-analytic review. Journal of Experimental Criminology 7.1:27–56.

    DOI: 10.1007/s11292-010-9109-1Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This meta-analysis includes forty-four studies (1983–2009) that evaluated programs designed to reduce school bullying, and that used both intervention and control groups to determine impact. Overall, the meta-analysis revealed effectiveness of school-based antibullying programs, with a 20–23 percent decrease in bullying and a 17–20 percent decrease in victimization. Effective components of programs were parent involvement; effective disciplinary procedures; increased playground supervision; and work at the peer level (e.g., peer mediation).

    Find this resource:

  • van der Ploeg, R., C. Steglich, and R. Veenstra. 2016. The support group approach in the Dutch KiVa anti-bullying programme: Effects on victimisation, defending and well-being at school. Educational Research 58.3:221–236.

    DOI: 10.1080/00131881.2016.1184949Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    A study utilizing the KiVa anti-bullying program examined whether support groups were helpful in an elementary school setting. Schools were assigned to KiVa intervention, KiVa intervention plus support group, or control group. Modest but important findings included that support group students reported positive changes, although changes were more pronounced short-term compared to end of the school year. Support group students reported more defenders at the end of the school year.

    Find this resource:

back to top