By Christine Totura, Ph.D.
A Masters Thesis Defended Fall 2003
The present study examined the relationship between individual, family, and school variables and both bullying and victimization. Approximately equal numbers of males and females (N = 1185 and 1174, respectively) were randomly selected from classrooms in 11 middle schools across 6th, 7th, and 8th grades. Students completed questionnaires including items from each domain. Questionnaires assessed bullying and victimization, internalizing and externalizing behaviors, family factors, and school variables. In addition, teachers of the selected classrooms completed a brief rating scale on each of the students, which assessed student moodiness, behavioral difficulties, and learning problems. Achievement and discipline records data were obtained. Based on their responses to critical items, participants were categorized into Bully, Victim, Bully/Victim, and comparison Control groups. Multivariate analyses, with follow-up univariate and discriminant function analyses, tested the association of variables within the individual, family, teacher report, and school domains with bullying group membership. Analyses were examined by grade and gender effects as well. Results indicated that variables within each of the domains significantly contributed to differences between bullying groups, by grade and gender. Specifically, bullies and bully/victims appeared to have the poorest reported adjustment in terms of behavioral difficulties, family functioning, and school variables, while both victims and bully/victims experienced greater internalizing difficulties. Bullies and bully/victims tended to have the poorest outcomes; however, victims reported poorer peer relationships and perceptions of school. Overall, depression, anxiety, and the expression of anger accounted for the majority of group differences. School variables, particularly peer relationships, a sense of school spirit, and perceptions of climate and adult availability at school, played a secondary role in explaining differences among groups. These findings varied by gender and grade. Illustratively, bullying intervention programs could, in part, focus on those characteristics that are more strongly related to certain groups of students (i.e., anger expression for females and school conditions for younger students).