Bullying has been defined as purposefully harming another person repeatedly over time (9). A study of U.S. middle and high school students found 14.3% were bullies, 12.5% were victims, and 11.6% were bullies and victims (6). Recent media attention regarding bullying and the negative effects of victimization (for example, Lawrence King in California, Jaheem Herrera in Georgia and Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover in Massachusetts) is an unfortunate reminder of the continued need for researchers, policy makers, parents and guardians, school personnel, and students to understand the phenomenon of bullying.

Self efficacy may help us to further our knowledge regarding bullying and victimization. Self-efficacy refers to people’s belief in their ability to successfully achieve a desired outcome (2, 10 &11). It has been linked with specific behaviors related to bullying and school violence. Some of these behaviors include:

  • having confidence that children can avoid violent behaviors (7)
  • supporting peers who are bullied (5 & 13)
  • preventing bully victims from becoming more aggressive (1)
  • creating lower levels of violent conduct (4)

Researchers, to date, have not developed a measure to specifically examine self-efficacy for coping with bullying victimization. The development of such a measure may aid school personnel in identifying students who may be at increased risk for bullying victimization.

Since there is no published scale for measuring self-efficacy for coping with bullying situations, our research team has developed such a measure entitled the Kim Bullying Self-Efficacy Scale (KBSES) (8). This instrument was tested in a rural southeastern school district and three subscales were identified: knowledge, social resources, and action. These subscales were positively correlated with the Self-Reliance, Attitude to Teachers, Social Stress, and Anxiety scales on the Behavior Assessment System for Children, Second Edition (BASC-2) (12 & 8).

This investigation extends the initial developmental work with the KBSES by investigating its validity. The three primary goals of this validation study were to determine:

  • whether items form the same three subscales as in the previous study
  • relationships between the KBSES subscales and other scales that measure bullying victimization and self-efficacy
  • behaviors related to bullying about which students felt most and least confident

Our Study’s Methods


The following section describes the three scales we used in our study:

1) Kim Bullying Self-Efficacy Scale (8)

  • 26 items measuring self-efficacy of students’ ability to cope with bullying victimization
  • 3rd grade reading level
  • Approximately 25 minutes to less for students to complete
  • Measures with three different subscales: Social Resources, Knowledge, and Action

2) Confidence Scale (3)

  • 5 items measuring students’ confidence in their use of nonviolent strategies
  • Researchers have found high scores on this scale were related to lower levels of bullying

3) Victimization Scale from the Student Survey of Bullying Behavior-Revised 2 (SSBB-R 2; 14)

  • 12 item scale measuring bullying victimization across the dimensions of physical, verbal, and relational bullying


The following section highlights the demographics of our study:

  • 152 elementary students in grades 3-5 from a rural southeastern public school
  • 82 (54%) female and 69 (45%) male students with 1 (1%) who did not report gender
  • 117 (76%) Caucasian/White, 21 (14%) African-American, 6 (4%) Hispanic, 3 (2%) Asian/Pacific Islander, 4 (3%) Other, and 1 (1%) who did not report ethnicity.


As found in the previous study (8), data analyses revealed the following three subscales:

  • Knowledge items asking about children’s confidence about their knowledge of bullying;
  • Action items assessing confidence about taking an action towards a bully;
  • Social Resource items tapping the students’ confidence in their ability to gain assistance from others about bullying.

Data analyses also revealed relationships between the KBSES and other scales measuring self efficacy and bullying victimization. For example, higher scores on the Confidence Scale reflect students’ confidence that they can use non-violent strategies. As predicted, higher scores on this scale (reflecting higher confidence) were associated with higher scores on each of the subscales from the KBSES (reflecting higher self-efficacy). On the other hand, the Victimization Scale measuring students’ reports of being victimized showed no relationship to scores on the KBSES.

The top five items for high and low self-efficacy are presented below in Tables 1 & 2. These two tables illustrate which behaviors students felt the most and least self-efficacy for coping with bullying victimization.

Table 1: Top 5 High Self-Efficacy Items Percentage
Tell an adult you are being bullied 71%
Get help when you are bullied 70%
Know when your friends are bullying you or teasing you 69%
Know what to do when someone is bullying you 65%
Walk away from a bully 65%

An example from Table 1 shows that 71% of the students who answered the item “How sure are you that you can tell an adult you are being bullied” reported high self-efficacy for being able to tell an adult. Of the top 5 high self-efficacy items, two were Social Resources items, two were Action items, and one was a Knowledge item.


Table 2: Top 5 Low Self-Efficacy Items

Talk to a bully 43%
Talk about your feelings with your teachers about bullying 39%
Know what to do if someone is bullying you online 38%
Know if you are being bullied online 35%
Confront a bully 34%

An example from Table 2 indicates that 43% of the students who answered the item “How sure are you that you can talk to a bully” reported that they were not confident in their ability to talk to a bully. Of the top 5 low self-efficacy items, two were Action items, two were Knowledge items, and one was a Social Resources item.


Results of this study indicated that the students believed that they could talk to adults and get help when they were bullied. These children also believed that they understood when their friends were teasing or bullying and knew what to do when bullied. However, these students reported that they were not confident that they could talk to or confront a bully. Future research is needed to investigate if talking to the bully can be an effective coping strategy to stop and/or prevent bullying and under what circumstances.

The KBSES is still at an early stage of development and needs to be administered to larger numbers of students to confirm its psychometric properties. We suggest further research on the KBSES could be done in the following three areas:

  • Study how the three subscales of the KBSES can guide intervention and counseling for victims of bullying. For example, a student who has high scores on the Knowledge and Action subscales but a low score on the subscale of Social Resources would need help identifying and using various social resources around them ( teachers and friends for example).
  • Administer the KBSES to more students in different areas of the country.
  • Compare a group of students who have been victimized by bullying with a comparison group of students who have not been victimized by bullying to examine differences in KBSES scores.

Implications for School Personnel

The KBSES could provide schools with valuable data about students’ confidence that they can handle bullying situations. This information could allow for the following benefits:

  • Greater prevention of bullying by screening a group of students and then customizing interventions to students based on the results. School personnel could screen an entire school, a whole classroom, or individuals to gain insight about their self-efficacy. lead to broad information about what skills the students have and what skills the students may need to improve.
  • More effective evaluation of bullying prevention programs that are targeted for the entire elementary school, a small group of victims or for intervention with individual victims of bullying.
  • More tailored interventions for the student by focusing time and resources on those who have the most need in the areas that need the most improvement.


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