Instrumental or Emotional Aggression: Testing Models of Bullying, Victimization, and Psychological Maladjustment among Taiwanese Seventh-Graders

By Wei, Hsi-sheng; Williams, James Herbert | Social Work Research, December 2009 | Go to article overview

Instrumental or Emotional Aggression: Testing Models of Bullying, Victimization, and Psychological Maladjustment among Taiwanese Seventh-Graders


Wei, Hsi-sheng, Williams, James Herbert, Social Work Research


This study examined the relationship of instrumental and emotional aggression to bullying, victimization, and psychosocial maladjustment. It was hypothesized that both types of aggression would be associated with bullying behavior and that emotional aggression would be exclusively associated with risk of victimization and psychological maladjustment (that is, depression, anxiety, and loneliness). The sample consisted of 219 Taiwanese seventh-graders with valid data on all of the research variables; 51.1% (n = 112) were male, and 48.9% (n = 107) were female. A series of structural equation models was analyzed to evaluate fit indices for competing models. The results indicated that both instrumental aggression and emotional aggression were associated with bullying, but only the latter was associated with victimization. Once psychological maladjustment was entered into the model, the association between emotional aggression and bullying became nonsignificant. Model indices also suggested that psychological maladjustment was a concurrent characteristic rather than a consequence of peer victimization. Implications for future investigation are discussed.

KEY WORDS: adolescents; aggression; bullying; psychological maladjustment; victimization

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Research on school bullying has increased rapidly over the past few decades. It is now well established that such aggression is prevalent internationally, with considerable numbers of youths affected. In a recent study of 2,086 German students, Scheithauer, Hayer, Petermann, and Jugert (2006) found that 12.1% of respondents bullied others, and 11.1% reported being victimized. In a survey on 1,344 fourth-grade primary school children in South Korea, Yang, Kim, Kim, Shin, and Yoon (2006) revealed a similar picture, with 12.0% of students bullying others, 5.3% reporting being victimized, and 7.2% reporting both bullying and victimization. Similar levels of bullying have been identified in the United Kingdom, Australia, Ireland, Norway, the United States, and Japan (Nansel et al., 2001; O1weus, 1992;A. M. O'Moore, Kirkham, & Smith, 1997; Rigby & Slee, 1991; Takahiro & Iwao, 2000; Whitney & Smith, 1993). Experiences of being bullied have been found to be associated with various psychological problems such as depression, loneliness, anxiety, and low self-esteem (Hawker & Boulton, 2000; Storch & Ledley, 2005).Victims may also exhibit psychosomatic symptoms, suicidal ideation, and reduced school attachment (Ivarsson, Broberg, Arvidsson, & Gillberg, 2005; Natvig, Albrektsen, & Qvarnstrom, 2001; Wei & Williams, 2004). Such adverse effects have raised serious human rights concerns, and efforts are underway to identify the risk factors of bullying for prevention and intervention (Greene, 2006).

Previous studies have identified distinctive aggressive patterns in bullying (Carney & Merrell, 2001; Haynie et al., 2001; O1weus, 1997; M. O'Moore & Kirkham, 2001; Schwartz, 2000). The majority of bullies were characterized by an overt aggressiveness, a need to dominate, little empathy for others, and positive attitudes toward violence (Carney & Merrell, 2001; Olweus, 1997). Despite such antisocial tendencies, such youngsters do not necessarily have salient psychological maladjustments. Although some researchers have found bullies to have lower self-esteem (Austin & Joseph, 1996), others have found that bullying has little association with self-esteem, anxiety, or loneliness (Kaukiainen et al., 2002; M. O'Moore & Kirkham, 2001; Nansel et al., 2001; Rigby & Slee, 1993). Instead, children who engage in bullying have been seen to be at higher risk of aggression, delinquency, and externalizing problems (Ivarsson et al., 2005; Kumpulainen & Rasanen, 2000;Veenstra et al., 2005).

A relatively small group of youths--namely, bully/victims or aggressive victims--manifest quite different patterns of behavior and personal characteristics. …

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