Hidden Forms of Victimization in Elementary Students Involved in Bullying

Article excerpt

Abstract. This study explored the possibility that bullies, victims of bullying, and bully-victims (i.e., youth who both perpetrate and are victims of bullying) are at increased risk for victimization in four other domains: conventional crime, child maltreatment, sexual victimization, and witnessing or indirect victimization. It also evaluated the extent to which victimization in these other domains enhances the prediction of internalizing problems. Participants were 689 fifth-grade students from an urban, ethnically diverse school district in the Northeast. Youth completed self-report measures about bullying involvement, victimization in the home and community, and internalizing problems. Bullies, victims, and bully-victims endorsed more victimization in other domains than students not involved in bullying in one of these capacities; bully-victims had the highest victimization rates overall. Further, although regression models showed that bullying involvement was related to greater internalizing problems, explanatory power was increased through the inclusion of other victimization forms. Findings highlight the need for comprehensive victimization assessment among students involved in bullying in any capacity.

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Bullying is a pervasive problem in U.S. schools today and a topic of increasing interest to educators, researchers, and policy makers. Recognizing that youth involved in bullying are at risk for short- and long-term deleterious outcomes (Juvoven, Nishina, & Graham, 2000; Nansel et al., 2001; Olweus, 1993a), states have responded by passing antibullying legislation (Limber & Small, 2003), and schools have implemented antibullying curricula (Committee for Children, 2001; Limber, Nation, Tracy, Melton, & Flerx, 2004; Olweus, Limber, & Mihalic, 1999). For such endeavors to be effective, though, they must address the complex nature of bullying. However, despite a growing body of research on bullying, to date few studies systematically have explored associations between bullying and a comprehensive range of other forms of victimization (e.g., child maltreatment, sexual victimization). Research is needed to reveal the potential connections between bullying and other victimization domains, and to disentangle the unique effects of bullying involvement from influences of other forms of victimization that children experience in their homes and communities. Such research will result in a more complete picture of factors affecting psychological and academic functioning among youth, and will inform intervention and prevention programs.

The current investigation represents an initial step in this research agenda. Specifically, this study examines rates of victimization experienced by youth in the home and community across bully/victim subtypes. Further, it evaluates the extent to which victimization in other domains enhances the prediction of internalizing problems beyond that which is explained by bullying involvement.

Bully/Victim Subtypes

Initial research endeavors focused on bullying emerged in Scandinavia, where Dan Olweus (1978) spearheaded a nationwide campaign against bullying. This initiative, which began in the 1970s, set forth the following definition of bullying that remains current today: "A student is being bullied or victimized when he or she is exposed, repeatedly and over time, to negative actions on the part of one or more students" (Olweus, 1993b, p. 9). The preceding definition highlights the aggressive component of bullying as well as the associated inherent power imbalance and repetitive nature. In recent years scholars have recognized the wide range of behaviors consistent with bullying, including both physical and relational manifestations. Physical bullying consists of overt physical acts directed toward peers, such as hitting or shoving, whereas relational bullying includes actions designed to damage or manipulate relationships (Crick, 1996; Crick & Bigbee, 1998). …