Bullying, Sexual Harassment, and Dating Violence (page 2)

By and — Bullying Special Edition Contributor
Updated on Apr 22, 2010

Why Do Bullies Have Unhealthy Romantic Relationships?

While there is no clear-cut answer, researchers do have a good idea as to why bullies have unhealthy romantic relationships. The early social interactions students have with their peers influence the beliefs and attitudes they bring into their romantic relationships. Students who are surrounded by peers modeling appropriate social interactions are more likely to prescribe to these norms. If adolescents have emotionally supportive friendships, they are more likely to have supportive romantic relationships as well. Similarly, those who have friendships marked by intimidation and coercion are more at-risk for developing unhealthy romantic relationships (10 & 11). Furthermore, those involved in dating violence are more likely to have witnessed parental violence and view violence in dating relationships as acceptable (6, & 12). Being raised in a home where it is acceptable to resolve disputes through aggression provides adolescents with poor problem-solving skills for their own romantic relationships in the future. 

As children become adolescents, their behaviors become more complex.  It is important to realize that although the rates of bullying decrease over time, it may be that the bullying is simply taking on different forms, such as sexual harassment and dating violence. Educators and parents should be aware of the complexity of social relationships during this time and need to realize that with increased interest and opportunities, students who bully may also be engaging in sexual harassment and dating violence.


1. Hoover, J., Oliver, R., & Hazler, R. (1992). Bullying: Perceptions of adolescent victims in the  Midwestern USA. School Psychology International, 13, 5-16. doi: 10.1177/0143034392131001

2. Pellegrini, A., & Bartini, M. (2001). Dominance in early adolescent boys: Affiliative and aggressive dimensions and possible functions. Merrill-Palmer Quarterly, 47, 142-163. doi: 10.1353/mpq.2001.0004

3. American Association of University Women Educational Foundation (1993) Hostile hallways: The AAUW survey on sexual harassment in America’s schools (No. 923012). Harris/Scholastic Research, Washington, DC.

4. American Association of University Women Educational Foundation (2001) Hostile hallways: Sexual harassment and bullying in schools. Harris/Scholastic Research: Washington, DC.

5. Roscoe, B., & Callahan, J. (1985). Adolescents’ self-report of violence in families and dating relations. Adolescence, 20, 545-553.

6. O’Keefe, M. (1998). Factors mediating the link between witnessing interparental violence and dating violence. Journal of Family Violence, 13, 39-57.

7. Lewis, S. F., & Fremouw, W. (2000). Dating violence: A critical review of the literature. Clinical Psychology Review, 21, 150-127.

8. Espelage, D. L. & Holt, M. K. (2007). Dating violence & sexual harassment across the bully-victim continuum among middle and high school students. Journal of Youth Adolescence, 36, 799-811.

9. Connolly, J., Pepler, D., Craig, W., & Taradash, A. (2000). Dating experiences of bullies in early adolescence. Child Maltreatment, 5, 299-310. doi:10.1177/1077559500005004002

10. Connolly, J., & Goldberg, A. (1999). Romantic relationships in adolescence: The role of friends and peers in their emergence and development. In W. Furman, B. B. Brown, & C. Feiring (Eds.), The development of romantic relationships in adolescence (pp. 266-290). New York:Cambridge Press.

11. Furman, W. (1999). The role of peer relationships in adolescent romantic relationships. In W.A. Collins & B. Laursen (Eds.), Minnesota symposium on child development, Volume 29:Relationships as developmental contexts (pp. 133-154). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

12. Baldry, A. (2003). Bullying in schools and exposure to domestic violence. Child Abuse & Neglect, 27, 713-732. doi:10.1016/S0145-2134(03)00114-5


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