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Bullying in college by students and teachers.

The problem of bullying in school is common throughout the world (Smith, Morita, Junger-Tas, Olweus, Catalano, & Slee, 1999). Olweus conducted the first systematic investigation of bullying in the early 1970s in Norway (Olweus, 1973), and has surveyed bullying behaviors in hundreds of thousands of Norwegian and Swedish primary and secondary school students over the last 30 years (Olweus, 1999). Olweus's studies show that bullying is widespread in Scandinavian schools, with an average of 7% of students acting as bullies from the 2nd through 9th grades, while the average percentage of students being bullied decreases with age, dropping from 15% in 2nd grade to 5% in 9th grade. Similar findings have been reported in studies in England and Wales (Smith, 1999), Ireland (O'Moore, Kirkham, & Smith, 1997), Spain (Ortega & Mora-Merchan, 1999), the Netherlands (Junger-Tas, 1999), Japan (Morita, Soeda, Soeda, & Taki, 1999), Australia (Rigby & Slee, 1999a), and the United States (Nansel, Overpeck, Pilla, Ruan, Simons-Morton, & Scheidt, 2001; National Center for Educational Statistics [NCES], 2001a, 2002), suggesting that bullying and being bullied in school is a common experience for children and adolescents across very different cultures.

In the United States, the problem of bullying in school did not generate much research attention until the 1990s (Harachi, Catalano, & Hawkins, 1999). As part of the 1993 National Household Education Survey (NCES, 1995a), 6,500 6th-12th graders nationwide were asked about bullying in school, and an average of 8% reported having been bullied, with victimization decreasing with age from 13% of 6th graders to 2.9% of 12th graders. In 1999, 8,400 6th-12th graders were interviewed as part of the School Crime Supplement to the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCES, 2001b), and 5% reported having been bullied at school during the preceding six months, with victimization decreasing with age from 10.5% of 6th graders to 1.2% of 12th graders. In a recent Indicators of School Crime and Safety survey (NCES, 2002), the percentage of students aged 12-18 years who reported having been bullied at school during the previous six months increased from the 5% in 1999 to 8% in 2001, with victimization decreasing with age from 14.3% of 6th graders to 2.4% of 12th graders (it is important to note that in the 1999 survey, "at school" meant in the school building, on the school grounds, or on a school bus, whereas in the 2001 survey, "at school" also included going to or coming from school). Finally, Nansel et al. (2001) investigated the prevalence of bullying in the United States using a nationally representative sample of 15,686 6th-10th graders, and found that an average of 13% bullied others regularly, while 10.6% reported having been bullied on a regular basis, with significantly more 6th-8th graders being bullied than 9th-10th graders.

Interest in the topic of bullying in American schools has increased dramatically in the past few years, perhaps due to the converging findings of recent studies of school killings in the United States (Anderson et al., 2001; Gaughan, Cerio, & Myers, 2001; Meloy, Hempel, Mohandie, Shiva, & Gray, 2001; O'Toole, 2000; Vossekuil, Reddy, Fein, Borum, & Modzelesky, 2000), which indicated that an important precursor to lethal school violence was the fact that many school killers had been bullied in school and sought revenge, becoming "classroom avengers" (McGee & DeBernardo, 1999). Beyond their association with the relatively rare event of school shootings in the United States, bullied students all over the world have been found to surfer many other negative consequences, including school avoidance (NCES, 1995b), low self-esteem (Olweus, 1993; O'Moore & Kirkham, 2001; Smith, 1999), and higher levels of anxiety (Bond, Carlin, Thomas, Rubin, & Patton, 2001; Kaltiala-Heino, Rimpelae, Rantanen, & Rimpelae, 2000; Okayasu & Takayama, 2000), depression (Bond, Carlin, Thomas, Rubin, & Patton, 2001; Olweus, 1993; Salmon, James, Cassidy, & Javaloyes, 2000), and suicidality (Carney, 2000; Kaltiala-Heino, Rimpelae, Marttunen, Rimpelae, & Rantanen, 1999; Morita et al., 1999; Rigby & Slee, 1999b) than nonbullied students and students in general.

Despite the rapidly growing body of work documenting bullying in primary and secondary schools, and the many harmful consequences associated with being bullied in school, studies investigating bullying at the college level are lacking. A number of studies have found that bullying occurs frequently among adults in the workplace (Glendenning, 2001; O'Moore, Seigne, McGuire, & Smith, 1998; Quine, 2001; Rayner, 1997), suggesting that bullying does continue beyond high school. While retrospective studies documenting the long-term negative mental health consequences of childhood bullying have been done with college students (Duncan, 1999; Katori, 1999; Miller, Verhoek-Miller, Ceminsky, & Nugent, 2000), the present study was designed to explore the occurrence of bullying in college students.

Previous studies of bullying in American and European primary and secondary school students (Nansel et al., 2001; Olweus, 1999) have found that male students are more often bullied and engage in significantly more bullying than females. In addition to examining the general occurrence of bullying in college students, the present study investigated gender differences in college bullying behaviors.

During the initial development of this study, students were interviewed about bullying in college, and one volunteered that a teacher regularly abused (with ageist taunts) a much older classmate. Other students related similar accounts of having witnessed bullying or having been bullied by college teachers. The bullying of students by teachers has been investigated by Olweus (1996a), who surveyed 2,400 Norwegian 6th-9th graders and found that 1.7% reported having been "teacher-bullied" during the previous five months. Therefore, the current study, in addition to exploring the prevalence of college student bullies and victims, investigated the bullying of college students by their teachers.

Rigby (1996) and Olweus (1999) have theorized that the development of bullying behavior in children is mainly attributable to the influence of family and school factors. Consistent with this view, family factors, such as authoritarian parenting methods, which rely on parental power and force to obtain child compliance and provide poor emotional support to children, have been found to promote the development of bullying in children (Baldry & Farrington, 1998; Olweus, 1980; Rigby, 1996), suggesting that "violence begets violence" (Olweus, 1993, p. 40). In school, Rigby (1996) theorized that authoritarian teachers may play a role in promoting bullying similar to that of authoritarian parents, in that "the potential bully will sometimes view the effective authoritarian teacher as a positive role model" (p. 83). Olweus (1999) further proposed that student bullies in school may serve as role models, promoting bullying by example. Based on Rigby's and Olweus's modeling theories, the present study tested the hypothesis that the amount of college student bullying witnessed by students would be related to the amount of bullying by students.

METHOD

Participants

A total of 1,025 undergraduate students (151 freshmen, 250 sophomores, 295 juniors, and 329 seniors) at a northeastern public university (with a total enrollment of 8,157 undergraduates) voluntarily participated in this study. They formed a convenience sample in which 62.6% were females (n = 642) and 37.4% were males (n = 383), closely approximating the 60.6% female and 39.4% male distribution in the entire student body, and the national distribution of 56% female and 44% male college students (NCES, 2001b). Their mean age was 21.18 years (SD = 4.3 years). Five percent were Asian Americans (n = 51), 5.4% African Americans (n = 55), 82% European Americans (n = 841), 3.7% Hispanic Americans (n = 38), .2% Native Americans (n = 2), 2.6% students of mixed ethnicity (n = 27), and 1.1% international students (n = 11).

Materials

Participants were administered a general information questionnaire, including questions about age, sex, year in school, cumulative grade point average (GPA; M = 3.14/4.0, SD = .46), socioeconomic status (SES), and ethnicity, followed by a bullying questionnaire. After completing the questionnaires, participants received a feedback sheet that explained the study and informed them that help with bullying and other issues was available at the university counseling center.

SES measure. Socioeconomic status was operationalized as the mean educational level of parents or guardians, which has been found to be the most stable component of a family's social class (Steinberg, Mounts, Lamborn, & Dornbusch, 1991). Participants were asked to indicate the highest level of education (scored from 1 to 8) completed by each of their parents or guardians: some grade school, finished grade school, some high school, finished high school, some college or 2-year degree, 4-year college degree, some school beyond college, and professional or graduate school. Scores for both parents or guardians were averaged to yield the participant's SES score. The mean SES for the sample was 5.2 (completion of some college or 2-year degree).

Bullying questionnaire. To date, most studies of bullying have used the Revised Bully/Victim Questionnaire (Olweus, 1996b), which was designed for use with elementary, middle, and high school students. This measure presents Olweus's widely accepted definition of bullying, then asks students questions about their experiences with bullying by students in school.

Olweus (1999) conceptualizes bullying as being characterized by three criteria: "(1) It is aggressive behavior or intentional harmdoing (2) which is carried out repeatedly and over time (3) in an interpersonal relationship characterized by an imbalance of power" (pp. 10-11). Olweus (1999) operationalizes bullying using three forms of "negative actions" by students: direct verbal attacks (saying mean and unpleasant things, or calling a student hurtful names), physical attacks (hitting, kicking, shoving), and more indirect psychological methods (such as deliberately excluding a student from a social group).

In this exploration of bullying in college students, a questionnaire was constructed following the pattern established by Olweus. First, a definition of bullying was presented, based closely on Olweus's definition, but adapted to include the contingency of bullying by college teachers: "As a student in college you are being bullied when someone who is more powerful than you deliberately and repeatedly tries to hurt you by: (1) attacking you verbally, using harmful words or names; (2) attacking you physically; (3) making obscene gestures towards you; or (4) intentionally isolating you or excluding you from a social group." The purpose of this study was to explore the overall occurrence of all forms of bullying in college, and therefore the frequency of each form of bullying (verbal, physical, psychological) was not investigated.

This definition of bullying was followed by 5 questions: (1) Have you ever seen a student being bullied in college by another student? (2) Have you ever been bullied in college by another student? (3) Have you ever seen a student being bullied in college by a teacher? (4) Have you ever been bullied in college by a teacher? (5) Have you ever bullied another student in college? Participants answered each question using one of four response alternatives, with scores ranging from 0 to 3: never = 0; only once or twice since I've been in college = 1; occasionally = 2; very frequently = 3.

Procedure

Participants were recruited on campus, and questionnaires were administered by students trained and supervised by the first author. The exclusive administration of questionnaires by students was done to reduce biasing of responses due to the two questions concerning bullying by teachers.

RESULTS

Table 1 presents the students' responses to the 5 bullying questions. A total of 33.4% of the students (n = 342) reported having seen a student bully another student in college once or twice, with an additional 24.7% (n = 253) having seen this occur occasionally and 2.8% (n = 29) very frequently. A total of 18.5% (n = 190) reported having been bullied in college by another student once or twice, with 5% (n = 51) having been bullied occasionally and 1.1% (n = 11) very frequently. A total of 29.4% (n = 301) reported having seen a teacher bully a student in college once or twice, with 12.8% (n = 131) having seen this occur occasionally and 1.9% (n = 20) very frequently. A total of 14.5% (n = 149) reported having been bullied by a college teacher once or twice, with 4.2% (n = 43) reporting that this had occurred occasionally and .5% (n = 5) very frequently. Finally, a total of 13.4% (n = 137) reported having bullied another student in college once or twice, with 3.2% (n = 33) indicating they had done so occasionally and 1.9% (n = 19) very frequently.

A one-way MANOVA revealed that there were significant sex differences in bullying behaviors, F(5, 1017) = 6.10, p < .0001. Univariate F tests revealed that males (M = .37, SD = .73) bullied other students significantly more than did females (M = .18, SD = .50), F(1, 1017) = 23.54, p < .0001; [[eta].sup.2] = .023 (a small-medium effect; see Cohen, 1988). There were no other significant sex differences in bullying behaviors.

There were significant intercorrelations among the variables (see Table 2). To test the hypothesis that students who had witnessed bullying would be more likely to bully, a multiple regression analysis was conducted using the first four bullying questions as predictor variables, and student bullying (the fifth bullying question) as the dependent variable (see Table 3). As hypothesized, student bullying was predicted by having seen students bully other students (p < .0001), but against expectation, student bullying was not predicted by having seen teachers bully students. Student bullying was also predicted by having been bullied by both students (p < .0001) and teachers (p < .01).

DISCUSSION

Based on the results of this study, it appears that a substantial amount of bullying by both students and teachers may be occurring in college. Over 60% of the students reported having observed a student being bullied by another student, and over 44% had seen a teacher bully a student. More than 6% of the students reported having been bullied by another student occasionally or very frequently, and almost 5% reported being bullied by a teacher occasionally or very frequently, while over 5% of the students stated that they bullied students occasionally or very frequently.

These data do not follow the pattern of decreasing bullying with age that has been reported in the bullying literature on primary and secondary school students. The findings indicate instead that bullying graduates to college, consistent with studies which have shown that bullying is a fairly common occurrence among adults in the workplace (Glendenning, 2001; O'Moore, Seigne, McGuire, & Smith, 1998; Quine, 2001; Rayner, 1997).

Olweus (1996a) reported that, in a sample of 2,400 Norwegian middle school students, 1.7% had been teacher-bullied in the previous five months. In the present study, which explored bullying by American college teachers, nearly 5% of the students reported having been bullied occasionally or very frequently by their teachers. Based on these two studies, both of which involved large samples, it seems that teachers are abusing their power and bullying students at all levels of education. However, further studies are needed to evaluate the generalizability of these findings.

Consistent with previous studies of bullying among American and European primary and secondary school students (Nansel et al., 2001; Olweus, 1999), male college students engaged in significantly more bullying than females. Male and female college students reported having been bullied equally (by other students as well as by teachers). Studies with American and European primary and secondary school students (Nansel et al., 2001; Olweus, 1999) have also found that males employ more physical forms of bullying, while females use a more verbal style of bullying. Further studies of college bullying are needed to address this issue, as the present investigation focused on the overall occurrence of bullying.

Rigby (1996) and Olweus (1999) theorized that students and teachers who bully act as role models, promoting student bullying. The results of this study partially support this hypothesis, as student bullying was predicted by having seen students bully other students, but not by having witnessed teachers bully students. Finally, Olweus (1999) found that student bullies often had been bullied themselves. Similarly, in the present study, student bullying was predicted by having been bullied by teachers and students. Taken together, these findings suggest that students who experience a climate of violence are more likely to be violent themselves, a case of bullying begetting bullying.

CONCLUSIONS

Overall, the results of this exploratory study suggest that bullying by students and teachers is a fairly common problem in college. Given the serious and long-term negative mental health consequences associated with being bullied (Duncan, 1999; Katori, 1999; Miller, Verhoek-Miller, Ceminsky, & Nugent, 2000; Olweus, 1999), and the fact that bullied students have been associated with lethal retaliatory violence in American secondary schools (Anderson et al., 2001; Gaughan, Cerio, & Myers, 2001; Meloy, 2001; O'Toole, 2000; Vossekuil, Reddy, Fein, Borum, & Modzelesky, 2000), and that as many as one million American college students may be carrying guns and other weapons on campus on a regular basis (Miller, Hemenway, & Wechsler, 1999; Summers & Hoffman, 1998), it is recommended that the issue of bullying on college campuses receive greater attention.
Table 1
Responses to the 5 Bullying Questions

 Seen Been Seen
 Student Student- Teacher
 Bully Bullied Bully
Responses n % n % n %

Never 401 39.1 773 75.4 572 55.9
Once or Twice 342 33.4 190 18.5 301 29.4
Occasionally 253 24.7 51 5.0 131 12.8
Very Frequently 29 2.8 11 1.1 20 1.9

 Been Bullied
 Teacher- Another
 Bullied Student
Responses n % n %

Never 828 80.8 835 81.5
Once or Twice 149 14.5 137 13.4
Occasionally 43 4.2 33 3.2
Very Frequently 5 .5 19 1.9

Table 2
Intercorrelations Among Age, GPA, SES, and Bullying Questions

 1 2 3 4

1. Age -- .14 *** -.21 *** -.14 ***
2. GPA -- .02 -.12 **
3. SES -- .10 **
4. Seen Student Bully --
5. Been Student-Bullied
6. Seen Teacher Bully
7. Been Teacher-Bullied
8. Bullied Another Student

 5 6 7 8

1. Age -.08 * -.04 -.03 -.07 *
2. GPA -.06 .01 -.08 * -.11 **
3. SES .02 .03 .02 .06
4. Seen Student Bully .41 *** .31 *** .19 *** .43 ***
5. Been Student-Bullied -- .24 *** .24 *** .43 ***
6. Seen Teacher Bully -- .57 *** .20 ***
7. Been Teacher-Bullied -- .22 ***
8. Bullied Another Student --

* p < .01, ** p < .001, *** p < .0001

Table 3
Summary of Regression Analysis for Variables Predicting
Student Bullying (N = 1,025)

Variable B SE B [beta]

Seen Student Bully .30 .03 .21 ***
Been Student-Bullied .29 .03 .28 ***
Seen Teacher Bully -.02 .03 -.01
Been Teacher-Bullied .10 .03 .11 *

* p < .01, ** p < .001, *** p < .0001


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Mark Chapell, Diane Casey, Carmen De la Cruz, Jennifer Ferrell, Jennifer Forman, Randi Lipkin, Megan Newsham, Michael Sterling, and Suzanne Whittaker, Department of Psychology, Rowan University.

Requests for reprints should De sent to Mark Chapell, Department of Psychology, Rowan University, 201 Mullica Hill Road, Glassboro, New Jersey 08028. E-mail: chapell@rowan.edu
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Date:Mar 22, 2004
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