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Perceptions and correlates of peer-victimization and bullying

Hunter, Simon C. and Boyle, James and Warden, David (2007) Perceptions and correlates of peer-victimization and bullying. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 77 (4). pp. 797-810. ISSN 0007-0998

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The experiences of peer-victimization and bullying are often treated empirically as though they are conceptually indistinct. Both involve repeated aggression, but definitions of bullying additionally emphasize the importance of aggressor intent and imbalance of power between the aggressor and the victim (Olweus, 1978; Whitney & Smith, 1993). The present study aimed to examine the extent to which peer-victimization and bullying are empirically similar.The sample comprised 1,429 pupils (50.2% male) aged between 8 and 13 years attending mainstream Scottish schools. Self-report questionnaire assessing peer-victimization and bullying, coping strategy use (WCCL: Hunter, 2000), situational appraisal and depressive symptomatology (Birleson, 1981). Almost one-third (30.7%) of pupils reported experiencing peer-victimization, and of these 38.1% (11.7% of whole sample) were categorized as victims of bullying. Victims of bullying perceived higher levels of threat and lower levels of perceived control. They also reported using more Wishful Thinking and Social Support coping strategies, but did not differ on Problem Focused coping. Bullied pupils also reported higher levels of depressive symptomatology. Peer-victimization and bullying appear to be qualitatively different experiences for children and adolescents, with bullying being the more serious phenomenon.