Bullying and its Relation to Child Abuse, Sexual Victimization, Domestic Violence, and Witnessing Community Violence
Bullying is a widespread problem that negatively affects the psychological and educational functioning of youth. Youth can be involved in bullying in a number of capacities. For instance, bullies are youth who tend to bully others, but are not often targets of bullying. Conversely, victims are youth who tend to be bullied by their peers, but who do not typically bully others. Finally, some youth both perpetrate bullying behaviors and are bullied by others; terms used to describe these youth include “bully-victims” and “aggressive-victims.”
For some youth involved in bullying it might be that they have experienced victimization in other settings, such as their homes and communities. When this happens, further detriments in youth well-being can occur. Bullying might overlap with other victimizations for a variety of reasons (Finkelhor, 1997). For instance, peer victimization and victimization elsewhere share common risk factors, like poor social interaction skills. Also, it might be that bullying perpetration is associated with risk taking that makes other victimizations more likely. Rather than walking away from a confrontation with someone in the community, for example, bullies might verbally provoke the community member and end up being physically hurt themselves. Finally, it might be that certain forms of victimization, such as family violence, create vulnerability for bullying perpetration or victimization. For instance, some youth who are maltreated by their families might learn that violence is the way to deal with interpersonal difficulties, and therefore physically bully their peers at school. Understanding the overlap between bullying involvement and other victimization forms is important because it will allow school officials to intervene and to prevent bullying more effectively.
What We Found
In our study of 700 fifth grade students we found in student self-reports:
- 14% bullies
- 12% victims
- 8% bully-victims
- 66% not involved in bullying
We then compared groups on the amount of victimization in other areas (i.e., outside of the school) they reported:
- Bully-victims reported the most child maltreatment (44%), which included experiences with physical and psychological abuse and neglect.
- Bully-victims also reported the highest rates of sexual victimization (32%), which included experiences with sexual harassment as well as sexual abuse, and included familial and non-familial perpetrators.
- Bully-victims and bullies witnessed higher levels of victimization within their homes (e.g., domestic violence) and communities (e.g., witnessing attacks) than other youth (59% for bully-victims, 61% for bullies).
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