Social Network Predictors of Bullying and Victimization
Mouttapa, Michele, Valente, Tom, Gallaher, Peggy, Rohrbach, Louise Ann, Unger, Jennifer B., Adolescence
The school context provides an opportunity for youth to socialize with selected peers, independently from adults (Youniss & Smollar, 1989). Friends make unique contributions to each other's learning, emotional support, and socialization beyond that of their parents (Hartup & Sancilio, 1986). Validation from friends provides psychosocial support that leads to healthy development and adjustment (Ladd, Kochenderfer, & Coleman, 1996; Harris, 1995). However, adolescents also face pressures to live up to the norms of their friendship group (Brown, Dolcini, & Leventhal, 1997), which may include involvement in bullying behaviors. For this reason, the friendship network, the pattern of friendships among individuals within a group, is an important aspect of adolescent school bullying.
Friendship networks are associated with several health risk behaviors, including smoking (Alexander, Piazza, Mekos, and Valente, 2001; Ennett & Bauman, 1994), risky sexual behaviors (Ennett, Bailey, & Federman, 1999), drug use (Bauman & Ennett, 1996), and syringe sharing among drug users (Valente & Vlahov, 2001). Friendship network characteristics are also associated with bullying (Huttunen, Salmivalli, & Lagerspetz, 1996) and victimization (Graham & Juvonen, 1998).
School Bullying--Prevalence and Correlates
Bullying in elementary schools and high schools is well documented and is recognized as a growing problem in the United States, Australia, several European nations, and some Asian countries, including Japan (Smith & Brain, 2000). The social context in which bullying occurs in Western and Eastern cultural settings may have similarities (Schwartz, Farver, Chang, & Lee-Shin, 2002). Within the United States, The Kaiser Family Foundation (Acre [CNN report], 2001) found that 8- to 15-year-olds considered bullying a "big problem," ranking higher than racism, AIDS, and peer pressure to use drugs and alcohol. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2001) reported that one in eight high school students nationwide was in at least one physical fight on school property during the past year. Both bullying and victimization are associated with intrapersonal problems such as anxiety and depression (Kumpulainen & Rasanen, 2000; Salmon & West, 2000; Kumpulainen, Rasanen, & Puura, 2002), eating disorders (Kaltiala-Heino, Rimpela, Rantanen, & Rimpela, 2000), low self-esteem (O'Moore & Kirkham, 2001), and less satisfaction with school (Kochenderfer & Ladd, 1996; Karatzias, Power, & Swanson, 2002).
Who Are Bullies, Victims, and Aggressive Victims?
Since bullies, victims and aggressive victims (those who are both bullies and victims) may have unique patterns of friendships and social status, it is important to clearly define the behaviors and common characteristics of these three groups. Bullies are those students who physically and/or emotionally harm another student repeatedly over time (Olweus, 1991). An imbalance of power exists, such that the victim has difficulty defending him/herself from aggressors (Olweus, 1991). In this case, the aggressor also has the distinction of being a "bully" because there is no retaliation. Bullies represent approximately 7-15% of the school-aged population (Pelligrini, 1998), and have been described as having a strong need to dominate others (Olweus, 1991) and the social skills and understanding of others' emotions to do so (Sutton, Smith, & Sweetenham, 1999). Collins and Bell (1996) found that bullies have higher peer-nominated scores on sociability and leadership relative to other students.
Victims are those students who are frequent targets of aggressive, hurtful actions, and provide little defense against their aggressors. Victims represent approximately 2-10% of the school-aged population (Pelligrini, 1998), and have been characterized by their cautious, sensitive, and quiet mannerisms (Olweus, 1991) and low self-esteem (Collins & Bell, 1996).
Aggressive victims, or "bully-victims" (e.g., Andreou, 2000), are those who engage in aggressive behaviors and are also victims of aggression. It is believed that aggressive victims represent 2-10% of the student population (Pelligrini, 1998), and are characterized by their reactivity, poor emotional regulation, academic difficulties, and peer rejection (Schwartz, 2000), as well as learning difficulties (Kaukiainen et al., 2002). Generally, previous studies have limited aggressive victim status to those students who score extremely high on raw or standardized measures of both aggression and victimization (see Schwartz, Proctor, & Chien, 2001).
Dominance Theory and Social Cognitive Theory
Dominance theory (Hawley, 1999) and social cognitive theory (Bandura, 2002) provide explanations of how the social network may influence bullying behaviors. Dominance theory posits that students use aggression against weaker students to gain access to resources, including high sociometric status among peers, whereas social cognitive theory posits that adolescents model their friends' behaviors, including aggressive behaviors. The two theories are not mutually exclusive. However, dominance theory suggests that aggression is associated with high sociometric status, whereas social cognitive theory suggests that aggression is associated with peers' aggressive behaviors.
Gender Differences in Bullying Behaviors
The types of bullying that males and females engage in vary. Compared to females, males are more often involved in physical forms of bullying (e.g., kicking, pushing), whereas females are more often involved in indirect forms of bullying (e.g., rumor spreading, social ostracism) (Crick, Casas, & Ku, 1999; Baldry & Farrington, 1999; Rivers & Smith, 1994). There is also evidence that indirect forms of aggression are more often tolerated among males, and are associated with social acceptance among their peers (Salmivalli, Kaukiainen, & Lagerspetz, 2000).
The strategies that victims use to cope with bullying also vary by gender. Male victims are less likely to tell anyone that they were bullied (Cowie, 2000) and more often retaliate with aggression relative to female victims (Salmivalli, Karhunen, & Lagerspetz, 1996). Female victims, on the other hand, more often respond to bullying with helplessness (Salmivalli, Karhunen, & Lagerspetz, 1996).
Ethnic Differences in Bullying and Victimization
The ethnic composition of the classroom has been related to classroom levels of aggression (Rowe, Almeida, & Jacobson, 1999), aggression among ethnic majorities (Graham & Juvonen, 2002), and victimization among ethnic minorities (Hanish & Guerra, 2000). There is also some evidence that attitudes toward fighting vary by ethnicity (Arbona, Jackson, McCoy, & Blakely, 1999). Rodkin et al. (2000) found that "tough boys," aggressive students with high centrality (popularity) scores, were disproportionately African American. Relatively few studies have examined bullying and social networks in a multiculrural setting.
Social Network Analysis
Social network analysis is a set of methods and techniques used to analyze social relationships (Scott, 2000; Wasserman & Faust, 1994; Valente, 1995). Network analysis requires relational data, or information about who is connected to whom within a group (e.g., friendship connections within a classroom of students; (Scott, 2000). Using network analysis, researchers can determine whether sociometric status, or one's social position within a group, is associated with individual attributes (e.g., leadership qualities, extraversion). Network analysis can also be used to determine whether the specific attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors of one's social ties (e.g., friends, coworkers) influence one's own attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors.
Sociometric status, aggression, and victimization. Network analysis has been employed to determine whether sociometric status is related …
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Publication information: Article title: Social Network Predictors of Bullying and Victimization. Contributors: Mouttapa, Michele - Author, Valente, Tom - Author, Gallaher, Peggy - Author, Rohrbach, Louise Ann - Author, Unger, Jennifer B. - Author. Journal title: Adolescence. Volume: 39. Issue: 154 Publication date: Summer 2004. Page number: 315+. © 1999 Libra Publishers, Inc. COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group.
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