Bullying Among Young Adolescents: The Strong, the Weak, and the Troubled

  1. Jaana Juvonen, PhD*,
  2. Sandra Graham, PhD,
  3. Mark A. Schuster, MD, PhD§
  1. *Departments of Psychology
  2. Education
  3. Department of Pediatrics, School of Medicine
  4. Department of Health Services, School of Public Health, University of California, Los Angeles, California
  5. §Rand, Santa Monica, California

Abstract

Objectives. Bullying and being bullied have been recognized as health problems for children because of their association with adjustment problems, including poor mental health and more extreme violent behavior. It is therefore important to understand how bullying and being bullied affect the well-being and adaptive functioning of youth. We sought to use multiple data sources to better understand the psychological and social problems exhibited by bullies, victims, and bully-victims.

Design, Setting, and Participants. Analysis of data from a community sample of 1985 mostly Latino and black 6th graders from 11 schools in predominantly low socioeconomic status urban communities (with a 79% response rate).

Main Outcome Measures. Peer reports of who bullies and who is victimized, self-reports of psychological distress, and peer and teacher reports of a range of adjustment problems.

Results. Twenty-two percent of the sample was classified as involved in bullying as perpetrators (7%), victims (9%), or both (6%). Compared with other students, these groups displayed school problems and difficulties getting along with classmates. Despite increased conduct problems, bullies were psychologically strongest and enjoyed high social standing among their classmates. In contrast, victims were emotionally distressed and socially marginalized among their classmates. Bully-victims were the most troubled group, displaying the highest level of conduct, school, and peer relationship problems.

Conclusions. To be able to intervene with bullying, it is important to recognize the unique problems of bullies, victims, and bully-victims. In addition to addressing these issues directly with their patients, pediatricians can recommend school-wide antibullying approaches that aim to change peer dynamics that support and maintain bullying.

Key Words:
  • Received April 14, 2003.
  • Accepted April 14, 2003.
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