Academic journal article School Psychology Review

Advancing Bullying Research from a Social-Ecological Lens: An Introduction to the Special Issue

Academic journal article School Psychology Review

Advancing Bullying Research from a Social-Ecological Lens: An Introduction to the Special Issue

Article excerpt

Bullying is a distinct subset of aggressive behavior that occurs around the world, with various physical and psychological outcomes for those involved (Cook, Williams, Guerra, Kim, & Sadek, 2010; Due et al. 2005). To gather comparable data across contexts, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently developed a uniform definition of bullying as:

any unwanted aggressive behavior(s) by another youth or group of youths who are not siblings or current dating partners that involves an observed or perceived power imbalance and is repeated multiple times or is highly likely to be repeated. Bullying may inflict harm or distress on the targeted youth including physical, psychological, social, or educational harm (Gladden, Vivolo-Kantor, Hamburger, & Lumpkin, 2014, p. 7).

This definition applies to school-aged youth ages 5 to 18 years and describes two modes of bullying (direct and indirect) and four types of bullying (physical, verbal, relational, and damage to property). Moreover, the definition acknowledges that bullying can occur in many contexts, including electronically (e.g., cyberbullying). The definition excludes aggression or bullying by siblings, or aggression or bullying within an intimate or dating relationship.

A recent meta-analysis of 80 studies that reported rates for traditional and cyber-perpetration, victimization, or both, revealed a mean prevalence rate among school-aged youth of 35% for traditional bullying involvement and 15% for cyberbullying involvement (Modecki, Minchin, Harbaugh, Guerra, & Runions, 2014). Prevalence of bullying victimization varies greatly by country (with a low of 6.3% for girls in Sweden to a high of 41.4% for boys in Lithuania; Due et al., 2005), reporter (e.g., parent, child, teacher; Bradshaw, Sawyer, & O'Brennan, 2007; Waasdorp, Pas, O'Brennan, & Bradshaw, 2011), definitions used (Swearer, Siebecker, Johnsen-Frerichs, & Wang, 2010), and measurement strategy (Modecki et al., 2014; Vivolo-Kantor, Martell, Holland, & Westby, 2014).

Bullying prevalence also varies by the type of bullying. A nationally representative survey of health behavior among U.S. school-aged children from middle to high school found victimization rates for the two months before the survey to be approximately 13% for physical bullying, 37% for verbal bullying, 41% for relational bullying, and 10% for cyberbullying (Wang, Iannotti, & Nansel, 2009). National trends indicate that all types of bullying decreased from 16.5% in 1998 to 7.5% in 2010, with the decline being significantly larger for boys, Whites, and students in grades 6 through 8. Victimization rates declined from 13.7% in 1998 to 10.2% in 2010, although this decline was significant for boys only (Perlus, Brooks-Russell, Wang, & Iannotti, 2014).

Bullying tends to be most pervasive during middle school (Rivers et al., 2009; Tokunaga, 2010), with less severe reporting during elementary and high school (Dinkes, Kemp, Baum, & Snyder, 2009). Recent research suggests that it is more direct, observable aggression that shows this trend, whereas indirect, less observable bullying may actually increase throughout high school (Yeager, Fong, Lee, & Espelage, 2015). Boys and girls engage in all forms of bullying (Espelage & Swearer, 2004), although physical bullying and assault is more prevalent for boys (Espelage, Bosworth, & Simon, 2000; Hamby, Finkelhor, & Turner, 2013), whereas girls tend to engage in verbal perpetration (Hamby, Finkelhor, & Turner, 2013) and relational aggression (Crick & Grotpeter, 1995). Findings about gender and cyberbullying are mixed. Some studies have found girls to be more involved in cyberbullying (Nickerson, Singleton, Schnurr, & Collen, 2014; Rivers & Noret, 2010), whereas others have found boys to be more involved (Erdur-Baker, 2010), and still others have revealed no gender differences in the prevalence of cyberbullying (Hinduja & Patchin, 2008; Tokunaga, 2010). …

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