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Examining variation in attitudes toward aggressive retaliation and perceptions of safety among bullies, victims, and bully/victims.

This article examines the link between involvement in bullying, as either a bully, victim, or bully/victim, and attitudes toward violence and perceptions of safety among 16,012 middle and high school students. Analyses indicated that 37.6% were frequently involved in bullying. Bully/victims were the most likely to report feeling unsafe and disconnected from their school, whereas bullies were the most likely to support aggressive retaliation. Implications for school counselors are discussed.


Self-reported rates of bullying have remained relatively stable although the rates of other forms of victimization and school violence have declined over the past decade (DeVoe et al., 2004). Bullying continues to be one of the most common forms of aggression and victimization experienced by school-aged children (Nansel, Overpeck, Haynie, Ruan, & Scheidt, 2003; Veenstra et al., 2005). Twenty-five states have passed laws regarding bullying, most of which focus on mandated reporting rather than prevention (Bradshaw, Debnam, Martin, & Gill, 2006). Despite the increased attention to the issue of bullying and school safety, relatively little is known about how students' involvement in bullying is associated with their perceptions of the school environment and likelihood for aggressive retaliation. Social cognitive theory (Bandura, 2001) suggests that youth who are frequently involved in bullying--either as a bully, as a victim, or as both a bully and a victim (bully/victim)--will perceive the school environment and the issue of bullying differently than will students with no or limited experience with bullying.

The current study aimed to identify the characteristics of youth at greatest risk for involvement in different types of bullying and how involvement in bullying relates to their attitudes toward aggressive retaliation and perceptions of the school environment. This research will inform the development of programs and policies related to school safety and bullying prevention by identifying youth at greatest risk for adjustment problems and subsequent involvement in violence at school and in the community.


Bullying is broadly defined as intentional and repeated acts that occur through direct verbal (e.g., threatening, name calling), direct physical (e.g., hitting, kicking), and indirect (e.g., spreading rumors, influencing relationships, cyberbullying) forms, and it typically occurs in situations where there is a power or status difference (Olweus, 1994). Prior research has shown that 21% of youth experience bullying at least once a week, with 9% reporting being a victim, 9% a bully, and 3% a bully/victim (Spriggs, Iannotti, Nansel, & Haynie, 2007). Furthermore, a study of middle and high school students indicated that 88% of students had witnessed bullying, 77% had at one time been a victim of bullying, and 25% had bullied others (Hoover, Oliver, & Hazier, 1992). Gender and age differences also have been reported in the literature, with middle school students reporting higher rates of involvement in bullying than high school students, and males reporting greater involvement in bullying as an aggressor (Nansel et al., 2001; Nansel et al., 2003).

Given its prevalence, bullying has traditionally been considered "a fact of life" by many adults; however, a growing number of studies are documenting significant negative short- and long-term effects associated with involvement in bullying (Gladstone, Parker, & Malhi, 2006; Smokowski & Kopasz, 2005). Yet, the type of involvement in bullying (i.e., bully, victim, or bully/victim) may be associated with a different pattern of risk-related attitudes and behaviors. Previous research has suggested that youth categorized primarily as bullies tend to be more impulsive and physically aggressive (Haynie et al., 2001; Smokowski & Kopasz; Veenstra et al., 2005). Conversely, victims tend to be more anxious and insecure and report being less happy than their peers (Glew, Ming-Yu, Katon, Rivara, & Kernic, 2005; Veenstra et al.). In contrast, students who both are victimized and perpetrate bullying (i.e., bully/victims) are often hyperactive, have attention problems (Smokowski & Kopasz), and feel less accepted by their teachers and peers (Andreou, 2001; Glew et al.). Of the three bullying subgroups, bully/victims appear to be at the greatest risk for mental health problems (Kaltiala-Heino, Rimpela, Rantanen, & Rimpela, 2000; Tobin, Schwartz, Gorman, & Abou-ezzeddine, 2005).

To date, few studies have examined variations in adolescents' perceptions of bullies, the school environment, and their attitudes toward retaliation based on their type of involvement in bullying (i.e., bully, victim, bully/victim). Social cognitive theory (Bandura, 2001) suggests that students' perceptions of their school (e.g., feeling safe and connected), others' bullying behavior (e.g., whether bullies are popular or feared by other students), and the school's prevention efforts (e.g., whether the school is doing enough to prevent bullying), as well as their attitudes toward aggressive retaliation, would influence their behavior at school. However, these attitudes and cognitions also likely vary as a function of adolescents' level of involvement in bullying. Enhancing our understanding of risk factors for involvement in frequent bullying and the types of beliefs and attitudes held by students with different subtypes of frequent bullying will help school counselors to prevent bullying and to intervene more effectively when bullying occurs.


The current study extends the extant work on bullying and peer victimization by using data from a large population-based study of bullying to examine the relationship between student characteristics (gender, grade level, ethnicity), the type of bullying experienced, and the frequency of involvement in bullying. The present study also adds to the existing literature by investigating how students' level of involvement in bullying relates to their perceptions of safety and school belongingness, attitudes toward physical retaliation, perceptions of bullies at their school, and the prevention efforts used by their school. Four subgroups of involvement in frequent bullying (i.e., no or low involvement, bully, victim, and bully/ victim) were created to examine the above aims.

Based on prior research indicating that aggressive youth tend to support aggressive responses to interpersonal threat and believe that aggression is an effective way of resolving conflict (Camodeca & Goossens, 2005), we hypothesized that students who are primarily bullies would endorse attitudes supporting aggressive retaliation and perceive bullies to be more popular than youth who are not involved in bullying. Previous research on victimized and rejected youth suggests that victims would feel less safe and less connected to others at the school (Buhs & Ladd, 2001; Skiba, Simmons, Peterson, & Forde, 2006), thus it was predicted that those classified as frequent victims would have poor perceptions of their school environment. Furthermore, based on prior research highlighting the social-emotional and mental health risks associated with being a bully/victim (McAdams & Schmidt, 2007; Tobin et al., 2005), we anticipated that bully/victims would evince the poorest perceptions of the school environment, including feeling the least safe at school and the least connected to others at the school. Similar to bullies, the bully/victims were expected to believe that aggressive retaliation is appropriate.



The present study uses data from a large-scale school-based survey administered in December 2005 by a large Maryland public school district. Data on bullying were collected from 16,012 students (grades 6-10) from 33 middle and high schools. Demographic characteristics of the participating schools are reported in Table 1. The sample of participating students was 49.21% male (n = 7,879) and 50.79% female (n = 8,133); and 68.8% (n = 11,016) Caucasian/White, 20.5% (n = 3,281) African American/Black, 4.4% (n = 712) Hispanic/ Latino, 3.8% (n = 609) Asian, and 2.5% (n = 394) other ethnic groups. The anonymous online survey was administered by the students' language arts teacher during a 3-week period and was accessible through a password-protected Web site.


The participating students completed an anonymous Web-based survey that defined bullying as occurring "when a person or group of people repeatedly say or do mean or hurtful things to someone on purpose. Bullying includes things like teasing, hitting, threatening, name-calling, ignoring, and leaving someone out on purpose." The survey included items assessing the constructs listed below. These items were based in part on previously developed measures of aggression (see Dahlberg, Toal, Swahn, & Behrens, 2005), school climate (Institute of Behavioral Science, 1990), and attitudes toward retaliation (Huesmann, Guerra, Zelli, & Miller, 1992), as well as questions commonly used in research on bullying (e.g., Haynie et al., 2001; Nansel et al., 2001; Solberg & Olweus, 2003; Spriggs et al., 2007).

Frequency of involvement in bullying. One question assessed victimization ("How often have you been bullied during the last month?") and a second question assessed the frequency of perpetration ("How often have you bullied someone else during the last month?"). Response options were not at all, once a month, 2-3 times during the month, once a week, and several times a week (Nansel et al., 2001; Solberg & Olweus, 2003).

Form of victimization. The form of bullying experienced was assessed by a single question ("Within the last month, has someone repeatedly tried to hurt you or make you feel bad by ...") to which participants could check multiple responses (e.g., push/shove) (Nansel et al., 2001).

Perceived reason. The students' perception of why they had been bullied was assessed through a single question ("Within the last month, have you been bullied about ...") to which participants could check multiple responses (e.g., the way you look or talk) (Nansel et al., 2001).

Perceived consequences. The effects of bullying were assessed through three items indicating whether participants had been physically hurt or injured, emotionally hurt or upset, and scared for my safety.

Safety and belongingness. Participants responded to two items indicating their perceptions of safety and belongingness ("I feel safe at school" and "I feel like I belong at this school"); Cronbach alpha = .63 (Institute of Behavioral Science, 1990).

Retaliatory attitudes. Attitudes toward aggressive retaliation were assessed through two items ("It is OK to hit someone if they hit me first" and "If people do something to make me really mad, they deserve to be beaten up"); alpha = .70 (Huesmann et al., 1992).

Perceptions of bullies. Perceived social norms regarding bullies were assessed by three items ("The bullies at my school are popular with other students," "feared by other students," "disliked by other students").

Bystander. Students' exposure to bullying was assessed through a single item ("Have you seen someone else being bullied during the last month?") (Nansel et al., 2001).

Perception of prevention efforts. Participants responded yes or no to a single item regarding their perception of bullying prevention efforts ("Do you think the adults at your school are doing enough to prevent or stop bullying?").

Statistical Methods

The majority of outcomes were either single dichotomous (yes/no) or 4-point Likert-style ordinal variables (e.g., strongly disagree to strongly agree). Because the 4-point variables were ordinal (rather than continuous) and not normally distributed (as indicated by inspection of histograms), the responses were dichotomized into agree (strongly agree and agree) and disagree (strongly disagree and disagree) prior to analysis. To examine the association between adolescent demographic characteristics, rates of involvement in bullying, and perceptions of the school environment, binary and multinomial logistic regressions were performed using Stata 9.2. Odds ratios (ORs) are reported for the dichotomous outcomes, and relative risk ratios (RRRs) are reported for the categorical outcomes--both representing effect size estimates. In all analyses, standard errors were adjusted for clustering of students within the 33 schools (Raudenbush & Bryk, 2002).

We categorized the participants into one of the four subgroups based on their responses to the two items assessing frequency of involvement in bullying ("How often have you been bullied during the last month?" and "How often have you bullied someone else during the last month?"): no or low involvement, bully only, bully/victim, and victim only (Haynie et al., 2001; Solberg & Olweus, 2003; Spriggs et al., 2007; Veenstra et al., 2005). Based on prior work by Solberg and Olweus, students were categorized into one of the three frequently involved groups if they indicated that the bullying and/or victimization occurred at least twice during the past month. ORs were computed to examine the association between forms of bullying experienced and adolescent characteristics (race and gender), as well as with frequent involvement grouping. A similar approach was used to examine perceived reasons for and consequences of bullying. We computed ORs to examine perceptions of safety and school belongingness, bullying prevention, and bully popularity, as well as retaliatory attitudes by frequent involvement grouping. Lastly, we examined these perceptions within the subset of adolescents frequently involved in bullying (n = 6,026), thereby comparing victims (n = 2,804) and bullies (n = 1,878) with bully/victims (n = 1,344).


Frequency of Involvement in Bullying

Over 37% of the youth reported some type of frequent involvement in bullying, with 17.5% as a victim, 11.7% as a bully, and 8.4% as a bully/victim (Table 2). Girls were less likely than boys to be in the bully/victim and bully groups. Minority youth were significantly more likely to be categorized as bully/ victims and bullies, but significantly less likely to be categorized as victims than White youth. However, findings were mixed with regard to African American adolescents. Compared to their White peers, African American youth had decreased odds of reporting being a frequent victim and increased odds of reporting being a frequent bully, whereas other minority groups had increased odds of reporting being a bully/victim, but not a victim or a bully. Adolescents' odds of reporting being a frequent victim tended to decrease with age, whereas their odds of reporting being a bully tended to increase with age.

Forms of Victimization, Perceived Reasons, and Perceived Consequences

Statistically significant gender and racial differences were observed in how and why adolescents reported that they had been bullied (Table 3). Compared to boys, girls had increased odds of reporting that they experienced indirect forms of bullying (i.e., having rumors or lies spread about them, being left out, and cyberbullying) and were more likely to report that they had been bullied with sexual comments or gestures. Girls were less likely to report being threatened or being bullied through direct physical forms (hit, slapped); there were no significant gender differences in the odds of reporting that they had experienced name-calling or teasing. There were significant gender differences regarding why the youth perceived they had been bullied, with girls being more likely to report that they had been bullied because of their gender and appearance but less likely to report that they had been bullied about their race/religion or socioeconomic status (SES).

Compared to White students, minority youth had increased odds of reporting that rumors or lies had been spread about them and that they had been bullied with sexual comments or gestures, but they were less likely to report that they had been teased or left out (Table 3). In addition, minority, youth were more likely than White youth to report that they had been bullied because of the way they look or talk and because of their race/religion. However, there were no significant ethnic differences in the odds of reporting name-calling; using electronic media; being pushed or shoved; being hit, slapped, kicked; or being threatened. Moreover, minority students did not differ in their odds of reporting being bullied about gender or SES.

Youth in all three frequent involvement groups had increased odds of reporting being bullied through all forms and for all reasons surveyed as compared to youth in the low-level involvement group (Table 3). Although all effects were statistically significant, the effect sizes (i.e., ORs) observed for the frequent victim and bully/victim groups were larger than for the frequent bully group, which suggests the latter group was at lower risk for experiencing these forms of bullying than the victims and bully/victims. Furthermore, bully/victims had the greatest odds of reporting being bullied in all ways surveyed except for name-calling and teasing. Bully/victims also were far more likely to report being bullied for all four of the reasons surveyed. Furthermore, bully/victims were most likely to report being physically hurt and scared for their safety when bullied, whereas victims were most likely to report being emotionally hurt.

Safety and School Belongingness

Youth in all three frequently involved groups reported feeling less safe and less connected to their school than youth in the low-or-no-involvement group (Table 4). Of the three frequent involvement subgroups, the bully/victims were significantly less likely than other youth to report feeling safe at school. These findings indicate that students' perceptions of the school environment varied significantly by the type of frequent involvement in bullying they had experienced.

Retaliatory Attitudes

Students in both the frequent bully and bully/victim groups reported attitudes supporting aggressive retaliation (Table 4). Although 67% of youth with a low level of involvement in bullying agreed that it was "OK to hit someone if they hit first," youth in the frequent bully (89.0%) and bully/victim (80.7%) groups were significantly more likely to endorse the statement. The odds ratios comparing students in both the frequent bully and bully/victim groups to those in the low-involvement group also were statistically significant for the other retaliation item ("If someone makes me mad, they deserve to be beaten up"). Frequent victims were significantly less likely than bully/victims and bullies to endorse retaliatory attitudes, but they did not differ significantly from non-involved adolescents. In contrast, bullies were significantly more likely than all other subgroups of youth to endorse both items assessing retaliatory attitudes.

Bystanders and Perception of Bullying Prevention

Exposure to bullying within the last month varied significantly by the frequency subgroup. Specifically, all three frequent involvement subgroups had greater odds of being bystanders than youth in the low-involvement group, with bully/victims being the most likely to have witnessed bullying (Table 4). Interestingly, slightly over half of the low-level-involvement youth thought that their school was not doing enough to prevent bullying; however, the youth in all three of the frequent involvement subgroups, including those in the bully group, were significantly more likely to believe that the adults at their school were not doing enough to prevent bullying as compared to their uninvolved peers.

Perception of Bullies

All three involvement groups reported perceiving the bullies at their school to be more popular and feared than did other youth, with frequent bully/ victims having significantly greater odds than their peers of perceiving the bullies to be popular and feared (Table 4). However, bully/victims and victims were significantly more likely than the other students to perceive bullies as disliked.


The current study examined the demographic characteristics of youth involved in bullying and explored associations between different types of involvement in bullying--as either a bully, victim, or bully/victim--in relation to perceptions of the school environment and attitudes toward aggressive retaliation. Approximately a third of the sample was frequently directly involved in bullying, either as a perpetrator, a victim, or both. The prevalence of involvement in bullying observed in the present study is slightly higher than the rate reported by Spriggs et al. (2007), which may be due to different student- or school-level characteristics or sampling procedures.

Demographic Characteristics

Forms of bullying. There were several significant gender differences in the forms of bullying experienced. Girls were more likely to experience all three forms of indirect bullying, which is consistent with previous research indicating that female youth are more likely to be involved in indirect, social, and relational aggression (Archer, 2004; Underwood, 2003). Furthermore, cyberbullying was more common among girls, perhaps because it shields them from face-to-face confrontation (Li, 2006; Patchin & Hinduja, 2006). This is one of the few large-scale studies examining the prevalence of cyberbullying and characteristics of youth involved in this particular form of bullying (also see Chibbaro, 2007; Kowalski & Limber, 2007). Similarly, there has been relatively little research examining the association between ethnicity and forms of bullying experienced. The available research suggests that minority youth, in particular girls, may be more likely to experience relational forms of aggression (Storch, Nock, Masia-Warner, & Barlas, 2003). However, our findings indicated that this was only true for rumor and lie spreading, and that minority youth were less likely to report being left out on purpose. Minority youth also were less likely to report being teased or picked on but were more likely to have sexual comments made about them.

Frequency of bullying involvement. Minority youth were more likely than White youth to report frequently bullying other youth, but they were less likely to report having been frequently bullied. Minority youth also were more likely to be categorized as frequent bullies and bully/victims, but less likely than White youth to be categorized as victims. These findings suggest that there may be some cultural differences in either overall perpetration levels or the conceptualization of the term bullying, which was specified on the survey. Social desirability also may have played a role. Future research should explore potential cultural differences in students' conceptualization or willingness to report bullying and victimization (Sawyer, Bradshaw, & O'Brennan, in press). A developmental trend also emerged suggesting that the likelihood of frequent victimization decreased with age, whereas the likelihood of frequent perpetration increased with age. Interestingly, the odds of being a bully/victim increased through eighth grade but declined slightly thereafter. These findings are cross-sectional, and thus we interpret this trend with caution.

Safety, Belongingness, and Retaliation

As predicted, students who were frequently involved with bullying reported feeling less connected to school and less safe than students with low-level involvement. Similarly, the findings that youth in the bully/victim group felt the least safe and the least connected to their school were consistent with our primary hypotheses. This information coupled with prior research indicating that bully/victims tend to have emotional and mental health problems (Glew et al., 2005; Juvonen, Graham, & Schuster, 2003; Spriggs et al., 2007; Wilson, 2004) suggests that bully/victims are at great risk for involvement in fights or other risky behaviors. Thus, it would seem advantageous that secondary prevention efforts be implemented to help youth frequently involved in bullying, particularly bully/victims, to feel safer at school and more connected to adults and other youth in order to reduce their potential for absenteeism or dropout.

As expected, students in both the frequent bully/ victim and bully groups were more likely to support aggressive responses to threat and provocation, with bullies being the most likely to endorse retaliatory beliefs. Prior research indicates that such attitudes are predictive of other social-cognitive perceptual biases and impulsive, reactive aggression (Bradshaw & Garbarino, 2004). Furthermore, factors on an individual, school, or family level also likely predict retaliatory attitudes and, more specifically, retaliation to bullying incidents. For example, parents' own attitudes toward retaliation have been shown to predict their children's aggressive behavior, responses to provocation, and attitudes toward retaliation (Solomon, Bradshaw, Wright, & Cheng, 2008).

With regard to attitudes toward retaliation, youth in the frequent victim subgroup were less likely than youth in the other two frequently involved subgroups to endorse retaliatory attitudes; however, their attitudes toward retaliation did not differ significantly from attitudes held by the youth in the low-or-no-involvement group. Despite prior research suggesting that youth in the victim subgroup are at increased risk of arming themselves (with a knife or gun) and even perpetrating premeditated retaliatory attacks (Brockenbrough, Cornell, & Loper, 2002; Leary, Kowalski, Smith, & Phillips, 2003; Verlinden, Hersen, & Thomas, 2000), the current study's analyses did not indicate such a trend. Rather, our findings suggest that frequent victims differ from bully/victims in their attitudes toward retaliation, such that students in the bully/victim group present the greatest pattern of psychosocial risks. The issue of retaliation is likely complicated and additional research is needed to understand the most effective ways for frequent victims and bully/victims to respond in bullying situations. It is also important to keep in mind that these associations may not be causal, but rather, certain attitudes or beliefs may have been present prior to the child's involvement with bullying. It is possible that students who feel unsafe or disconnected to school are more likely to become bully/victims. Longitudinal research is needed to clarify the direction of these and all other associations examined in the current cross-sectional study.

An interesting and unique finding of the current study was that the majority of students, regardless of their involvement group, perceived bullies to be both popular and disliked. Furthermore, all frequently involved students were more likely than non-involved youth to report fearing bullies. Although these views may seem incompatible, it is clear that students who bully are perceived as having power and dominance, particularly among youth who are frequently involved in bullying. These findings suggest a complex view of bullies, and future research should explore factors that influence the formation of these perceptions and how they vary by the type of involvement in bullying.


Data were collected by the school district through self-report measures, and thus social desirability may have influenced the students' responses. Although there is limited research regarding the reliability and validity of anonymous self-report measures of bullying, particularly when collected via a Web-based survey, a recent study by Wang et al. (2005) found that youth reported higher and perhaps more valid rates of sensitive information (e.g., substance use) on a Web-based survey than a pencil-and-paper survey. Thus, the Web-based administration of the survey may have resulted in more accurate data regarding the participants' attitudes and experiences with bullying.

Consistent with prior research (e.g., Solberg & Olweus, 2003; Spriggs et al., 2007), the current survey included a definition of bullying; however, it is unclear whether the youth consistently applied this definition when answering the individual questions. It is possible that a different pattern of findings would have emerged if we had used a different measure of bullying, such as assessing bullying via a behaviorally based measure (e.g., relational vs. physical forms), rather than the definition-based measure used in the current study. A recent study by Sawyer et al. (in press), however, suggests that a definition-based measure is a more conservative estimate of the prevalence of bullying than a behavior-based measure. Furthermore, the use of the term bullying within the definition may have biased students' responses to the question. Additional research is needed to determine the most valid and reliable method for assessing bullying behavior (e.g., using a definition or individual behaviors) (see Furlong, Sharkey, Felix, Tanigawa, & Greif-Green, in press).

Similarly, the bullying-related variables were single-item indicators. Given the large scale and scope of the study, it was not feasible to include multi-item indicators of the bullying-related variables. Although single-item indicators are commonly used in epidemiological studies, additional research is needed to determine the concurrent and predictive validity of these items.

As noted above, these data are cross-sectional, and thus we cannot determine the direction of the observed associations. Some of the school- and bullying-related attitudes may have been present prior to the students' involvement in bullying, or perhaps they could have been a result of their involvement in bullying. Longitudinal research is needed to examine the effect of involvement in bullying on students' attitudes toward school, and how this in turn relates to other outcomes, such as academic performance and discipline problems.

The current sample is both ethnically diverse and one of the largest U.S. samples used to study bullying in the published literature; however, it is not nationally representative. Therefore, it is unclear to what extent these findings will generalize to other youth. These data focus on middle and high school students, and thus additional research is needed to determine if similar patterns are observed among elementary school children. Additional research should be conducted using a multilevel approach to examine the prevalence of bullying in relation to school-level indicators of disorder (e.g., high student-teacher ratio, high concentration of student poverty) (Bradshaw, Sawyer, & O'Brennan, in press; Khoury-Kassabri, Benbenishty, Astor, & Zeira, 2004).

Conclusions and Implications for School Counselors

Findings from this study further document the significance of bullying within the school environment and indicate that semimonthly involvement in bullying is associated with retaliatory attitudes and diminished perceptions of school safety and belongingness. These results also hold particular importance for school counselors, who can aid in educating teachers and other school personnel about the potentially deleterious effects associated with peer victimization (Elinoff, Chafouleas, & Sassu, 2004; Jacobsen & Bauman, 2007). Youth who are bully/ victims and who frequently bully appear to present the greatest risk for displaying poor perceptions of the school environment and other social-emotional problems (Tobin et al., 2005).

It is also important to note that the vast majority of the sample reported having witnessed bullying within the last month. High levels of bullying and peer victimization can reinforce social norms related to aggressive behavior and potentially alter the school climate. Interventions should aim to reduce the prevalence of bullying in schools by increasing adult supervision and enhancing adults' ability to detect and effectively intervene in bullying situations (Jacobsen & Bauman, 2007; Olweus et al., 2007). In fact, over half of the students surveyed perceived that school staff were not doing enough to prevent bullying--a belief that was particularly common among students frequently involved in bullying.

Thus, in accordance with recommendations of the American School Counselor Association (ASCA, 2005), it may be advantageous for school counselors to conduct teacher and parent training sessions in order to increase knowledge on the topic and teach appropriate positive behavior strategies that can be used if a child is bullying others or being victimized. In addition, these sessions can help school staff recognize the various forms of bullying (physical vs. relational) and train parents and teachers to be more proactive in their anti-bullying efforts. By increasing awareness of the problem of bullying and providing training on skills for effectively handling a bullying situation, teachers and school staff may be more likely to effectively prevent bullying from occurring (Bradshaw, Sawyer, & O'Brennan, 2007). Likewise, school staff and administrators may need to develop strategies for effectively communicating their prevention efforts with students in a way that does not draw negative attention to or ostracize the victim or the bully.

Given the negative consequences of students involved in bullying, as either a bully, victim, or bully/victim, school counselors can play an integral role in providing support for these individuals. For example, social skills training and assertiveness training show promise for individuals involved in bullying. They have been shown to improve victimized students' self-esteem, sense of competence, and abilities to effectively deal with bullying behavior (Macklem, 2003). School counselors also can work collaboratively with teachers to create classroom opportunities for victims to positively interact with their peers. With regard to working with bullies, school counselors can utilize components of anger management programs to help these individuals recognize problems and then apply problem-solving skills to make prosocial choices (Smith, Larson, & Nuckles, 2006).

Schools also should consider administering annual anonymous surveys to better understand the prevalence and social norms related to bullying at their school so that prevention efforts can be tailored to meet local needs (ASCA, 2005; Bernes & Bardick, 2007; Bradshaw et al., 2006). The most effective bullying prevention efforts appear to be whole-school prevention programs, such as the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program (Olweus et al., 2007), which establish school-wide rules and expectations related to bullying, thereby altering the social norms regarding bullying behavior, bullies, and bystanders. Other school-wide programs, such as Positive Behavior Supports (Horner et al., in press), which aim to alter school norms regarding student behavior and promote positive behavioral expectations, also hold great promise as effective strategies for preventing bullying and school violence.

There also should be careful consideration of cultural factors and school context when implementing programs that target social norms, because in some community contexts--such as urban or inner-city neighborhoods--it may be normative, adaptive, or protective to respond physically when provoked or bullied (Bradshaw & Garbarino, 2004; Solomon et al., 2008). It is critical that counselors and other school staff work collaboratively to help all students feel safe at school and adapt their intervention strategies according to the culture, the context, and the student's type of involvement in bullying. This is also an area in which additional empirical work is needed.

Prior to implementing any bullying prevention program, school counselors should assess the level of engagement and buy-in from teachers and school staff in order to ensure program effectiveness, as past research has indicated that bullying prevention programs are not only more effective, but are more likely to be sustained over time, if school counselors, teachers, and administrators take part in developing the program (Orpinas, Horne, & Staniszewski, 2003). Further work is needed, however, to determine the impact of these and other bullying prevention efforts on students across the different frequent involvement subgroups, or if the effects vary by gender, ethnicity, or school/community context.


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Catherine P. Bradshaw, Ph.D., is an assistant professor, and Lindsey M. O'Brennan and Anne L. Sawyer are research assistants, with the Johns Hopkins Center for the Prevention of Youth Violence, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore. E-mail:

The authors would like to thank Rhonda Gill and Lucia Martin from the Maryland public school system for their support of this project and for providing access to the data. This project was funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (IU49CE000728 and K01CE001333-01) and the Hamilton Fish Institute on School and Community Violence.
Table 1. School-Level Demographic Characteristics

                               Middle Schools        High Schools
Characteristics of                 n = 20                n = 13
Participating Schools
(n = 33 schools)               M        (SD)         M         (SD)

Enrollment                   910.11   (269.47)    1,918.33   (360.19)

Student-teacher ratio         19.27     (1.66)       22.18     (1.25)

Students receiving free or    23.13    (15.49)       10.18     (7.21)
reduced-cost meals (%)

Students receiving special    13.04     (2.91)       11.93     (2.67)
education services (%)

Student mobility rate (%)     18.59     (8.82)       19.31     (7.75)

Note. School-level demographic data were obtained from the state
department of education.

Table 2 Results of Multinomial Logistic Regression with Relative Risk
Ratios, Predicting Odds of Frequent Involvement in Bullying from
Student Demographic Characteristics

                              Low-Level         Victim
                Wald       Involvement (a)        %
             [chi square]         %              RRR


Boys (a)                        60.8             17.2
Girls           28.9 **         63.7             17.8


White (a)                       62.9             18.8
African        204.6 **         61.9             12.8
                                                 0.68 **
Hispanic        22.4 **         60.0             16.3
Other            6.0            59.5             19.2

Grade Level

6 (a)                           65.3             22.7

7               74.5 **         61.0             18.5
8              121.4 **         60.2             16.9
                                                  0.80 *
9              134.6 **         62.6             13.7
                                                  0.62 **
10             151.3 **         63.1            11.80
                                                 0.53 **
TOTAL % (n)                     62.4 (9,986)    17.5 (2,804)

             Bully/Victim      Bully
                  %              %
                 RRR            RRR


Boys (a)         9.0            13.0
Girls            7.8            10.5


White (a)        8.0            10.3
African          8.4            16.9
                 1.07           1.72 **
Hispanic        12.6           11.1
                 1.66 **        1.14
Other           10.3           11.0

Grade Level

6 (a)            6.2            5.8

7                9.2           11.3
                 1.59 *         2.08 **
8                9.4           13.5
                 1.65 **        2.54 **
9                8.7           14.9
                 1.48 **        2.79 **
10               8.70          16.40
                 1.47 **        3.03 **
TOTAL % (n)      8.4 (1,344)    11.7 (1,878)

Note. Percentages indicate those within each demographic group who
reported frequent involvement in bullying (two or more times in the
month). All analyses included gender, grade, and race; and the
standard errors were adjusted to address the clustering of students
within schools (N = 16,012 students in grades 6-10).

(a) Indicates reference groups.

* p<.05. ** p<.001.

Table 3. Results of Logistic Regression Analyses with Odds Ratios,
Predicting the Characteristics of Students' Bullying Experiences
from Their Type of Bullying Involvement

                               Gender            Gender
                                 OR                OR

Form of Bullying Experienced

Direct verbal bullying

Name-calling                   1.00              0.97
Tease or pick on               1.74              0.87 *
Threats                        0.69 **           1.12
Sexual comments                1.46 **           1.38 **
or gestures

Direct physical bullying

Push or shove                  0.68 **           0.97
Hit, slap, or kick             0.60 **           1.15

Indirect bullying

Rumors or lies                 1.53 **           1.12 *
Leaving out                    1.52 **           0.86 *
E-mail/e-message/blog          1.46 **           0.88

Perceived Reasons

Gender                         1.16 *            1.18
Appearance or talk             1.30 ***          1.13 *
Race or religion               0.73 **           2.71 **
Family SES                     0.84 *            1.11

Perceived Consequences

Physically hurt                0.71 **           1.17 *
Emotionally hurt               1.62 **           1.00
Scared for safety              0.77 **           1.19 *

                              Low-Level          Victim
                           Involvement (a)     (n = 2,804)
                             (n = 9,986)            %
                                  %                OR

Form of Bullying Experienced

Direct verbal bullying

Name-calling                    25.6            80.2
                                                11.57 **
Tease or pick on                17.8            76.0
                                                14.33 **
Threats                          9.5            44.9
                                                 8.23 **
Sexual comments                 10.8            28.5
or gestures                                      3.76 **

Direct physical bullying

Push or shove                   16.6            52.6
                                                 5.56 **
Hit, slap, or kick              11.5            39.2
                                                 5.05 **

Indirect bullying

Rumors or lies                  22.9            55.7
                                                 4.30 **
Leaving out                     12.4            41.5
                                                 5.00 **
E-mail/e-message/blog            5.1            12.8
                                                 2.86 **

Perceived Reasons

Gender                           3.4            17.2
                                                 5.93 **
Appearance or talk              24.0            66.7
                                                 6.49 **
Race or religion                 7.6            20.6
                                                 3.62 **
Family SES                       4.7            16.3
                                                 4.04 **

Perceived Consequences

Physically hurt                  2.8            18.9
                                                 7.99 **
Emotionally hurt                19.5            68.4
                                                 9.82 **
Scared for safety                5.4            29.7
                                                 7.35 **

                               Bully/           Frequent
                               Victim             Bully
                             (n = 1,344)       (n = 1,878)
                                  %                 %
                                 OR                OR

Form of Bullying Experienced

Direct verbal bullying

Name-calling                  82.4              31.2
                              13.91 **           1.37 **
Tease or pick on              76.9              20.7
                              15.80 **           1.27 *
Threats                       54.7              16.8
                              11.41 **           1.78 **
Sexual comments               43.8              23.4
or gestures                    6.67 **           2.30 **

Direct physical bullying

Push or shove                 61.9              24.0
                               8.45 **           1.64 **
Hit, slap, or kick            53.3              20.5
                               8.76 **           1.90 **

Indirect bullying

Rumors or lies                57.2              30.3
                               4.71 **           1.53 **
Leaving out                   46.0              13.3
                               6.38 **           1.16
E-mail/e-message/blog         21.4               9.6
                               5.13 **           1.92 **

Perceived Reasons

Gender                        26.0               6.1
                              10.07 **           1.81 **
Appearance or talk            71.1              31.5
                               7.93 **           1.46 **
Race or religion              32.7              13.8
                               6.01 **           1.68 **
Family SES                    27.0               9.1
                               7.44 **           1.95 **

Perceived Consequences

Physically hurt               26.8               6.2
                              12.72 **           2.28 **
Emotionally hurt              61.5              20.2
                               7.98 **           1.21 *
Scared for safety             31.2               6.8
                               8.18 **           1.32 *

* Note. Percentages indicate those within each bullying involvement
group who reported that particular characteristic of the bullying
event. All analyses controlled for gender, grade, and race, and the
standard errors were adjusted: for the clustering of students
within schools (N = 16,012 students in grades 6-10); however, the
ORs for gender and race were not adjusted for involvement group.

(a) Indicates reference groups.

* p < .05. ** p <.001.

Table 4. Results of Logistic Regression Analyses with Odds Ratios,
Predicting School- and Bullying-Related Attitudes from Type of
Involvement in Frequent Bullying

                                       Low-Level         Victim
                                    Involvement (a)    (n = 2,804)
                                      (n = 9,986)           %
                                           %               OR

Safety and Belongingness

Feel unsafe at school                    19.9           39.4
                                                         2.77 **
                                                        [0.81 *]
Feel they do not belong at school        16.4           32.1
                                                         2.64 **

Retaliatory Attitudes

Think it is OK to hit if they            67.1           61.9
were hit first                                           0.89
                                                        [0.46 **]
Believe that someone who makes           34.4           32.4
them mad deserves to be beaten up                        0.98
                                                        [0.37 **]

Bystander and Prevention

Have seen someone else being             68.3           84.2
bullied                                                  2.59 **
                                                        [0.37 **]
Believe adults are not doing             54.8           68.7
enough to prevent bullying                               1.95 **
                                                        [0.84 **]

Perceptions of Bullies
(Believe people who bully others at the school are--)

Popular                                  58.6           76.1
                                                         2.37 **
                                                        [0.79 *]
Feared                                   36.7           41.7
                                                         1.27 **
                                                        [0.72 **]
Disliked                                 58.7           64.7
                                                         1.29 **

                                        Bully/          Frequent
                                      Victim (b)          Bully
                                      (n = 1,344)      (n = 1,878)
                                           %                %
                                          OR               OR

Safety and Belongingness

Feel unsafe at school                  46.1             30.5
                                        3.39 **          1.64 **
                                                        [0.49 **]
Feel they do not belong at school      36.7             24.7
                                        2.88 **          1.50 **
                                                        [0.53 **]

Retaliatory Attitudes

Think it is OK to hit if they          80.7             89.0
were hit first                          1.90 **          3.16 **
                                                        [1.71 **]
Believe that someone who makes         58.9             67.6
them mad deserves to be beaten up       2.65 **          3.58 **
                                                        [1.35 **]

Bystander and Prevention

Have seen someone else being           93.8             88.7
bullied                                 6.89 **          3.46 **
                                                        [0.50 **]
Believe adults are not doing           73.9             66.2
enough to prevent bullying              2.27 **          1.46 **
                                                        [0.66 **]

Perceptions of Bullies
(Believe people who bully others at the school are--)

Popular                                81.5             73.6
                                        3.04 **          1.85 **
                                                        [0.61 **]
Feared                                 51.9             48.4
                                        1.82 **          1.53 **
                                                        [0.82 *]
Disliked                               65.9             59.3
                                        1.40 **          1.06
                                                        [0.74 **]

Note. Percentages indicate those within each bullying involvement
group who reported supporting each statement. All analyses
controlled for gender, grade, and race; and the standard errors
were adjusted for the clustering of students within schools
(N = 16,012 students in grades 6-10).

(a) Indicates reference group for unbracketed ORs. ORs within
brackets contrast victims and bullies with bully/victims as the
reference group, as indicated by (b) (n = 6,026 students involved
in frequent bullying).

* p < .05. ** p < .001.
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Author:Bradshaw, Catherine P.; O'Brennan, Lindsey M.; Sawyer, Anne L.
Publication:Professional School Counseling
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 1, 2008
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