Bullies and Victims More At Risk of Being Victims of Other Crimes
By Lori Wright, Media Relations
October 10, 2007
Bullies and their victims are more likely to be victims of
other crimes than youth who are not exposed to bullying, according
to new research from the UNH Family Research Laboratory and
the Crimes Against Children Research Center.
The research is presented in the article “Hidden Forms
of Victimization in Elementary Students Involved in Bullying,” which
appears in most recent issue of School Psychology Review. The
article is authored by Melissa Holt, David Finkelhor, and Glenda
Kaufman Kantor with the Family Research Laboratory and Crimes
Against Children Research Center.
The researchers surveyed nearly 700 fifth-graders living in
an urban area in the Northeast. They found that youth involved
in bullying in any capacity, whether as bullies, victims, or
both -- bully-victims -- were more likely to report that they
were victims of other crimes than youth who were not involved
in bullying in any capacity.
The rates of victimization were particularly striking for
bully-victims, who reported markedly higher levels of being
victims of conventional crime (e.g. theft, attacks by unknown
individuals), child maltreatment (e.g. physical abuse, neglect),
sexual victimization (e.g. sexual abuse), and peer and sibling
victimization (e.g. being hit by other kids). Nearly 85 percent
of the youths classified as bully-victims had been the victims
of a conventional crime and more than 30 percent were victims
of a sexual crime.
“Bully-victims experience a constellation of problems
such as lack of school success, social isolation, and problem
behaviors, which, taken together, put bully-victims at risk
for deleterious outcomes. Further, the high victimization rates
among bully-victims also helps to explain why long-term outcomes
for this group are often poor and why, at times, they end up
needing psychiatric help,” Holt said.
The researchers also uncovered eye-opening research about
victimization rates for bullies. Although bullies are primarily
perpetrators at school, they often are victimized at home and
in the community, and often are victims of conventional crime.
Researchers found that more than 70 percent of the students
classified as bullies also were conventional crime victims.
“Certain characteristics of bullies, such as aggressiveness,
may make them more prone to victimizations such as being attacked
on the street. Without a tendency to walk away from confrontations,
conflicts might escalate and result in a crime being committed
against the bully,” Holt said.
“And because bullies tend to associate with other aggressive
youth, they may experience more incidents of crime outside
of school at the hands of these associates. For instance, friends
might break their things or steal something from them. Or,
it might be that because bullies are used to being in positions
of power, they incite resentment and competitive aggression
from others desiring power, which results in the bully becoming
victimized,” she said.
This study raises a number of issues regarding how to implement
bullying prevention programs, both in and outside of schools.
“For school officials to be helpful and to intervene
appropriately, they must know more about the range of victimizations
students experience beyond bullying involvement. Accordingly,
as part of bullying prevention programs or individual counseling
interventions, it is critical to assess and address the range
of victimizations to which students have potentially been exposed,” Holt
Researchers also note that the label of bully-victim underplays
and minimizes the seriousness of victimization some youth in
this category experience. Similarly, the label of bully obscures
the fact that some bullies experience considerable victimization.
“Individuals who design and implement bullying prevention
programs should recognize that although bullies are perpetrators
at school, they might be victims at home or in the community.
Accordingly, in addition to efforts in existing bullying prevention
programs aimed at helping bullies to diminish their aggressive
behaviors, programs should be expanded to address the internalizing
problems youth might have experienced as a result of being
victimized,” Holt said.