Bullying and victimization during early adolescence: Peer influences and psychosocial correlates

Dorothy L. Espelage, Melissa K. Holt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study examined the association between peer dynamics and bullying behavior among early adolescents. Participants (N = 422) included middle school students in grades 6 through 8 from a small midwestern town. Students completed a 40-minute survey that included demographic questions, self-report and peer-report measures of bullying and victimization as well as measures of other psychosocial variables. Male adolescents self-reported more bullying and were nominated as bullies more often than female adolescents, and older students self-reported more bullying behavior than younger students. Approximately 14.5% of the sample met the criteria for bullying frequently. Cluster analysis yielded five distinct groups of bully/victim subtypes. Bullies had the same number of friends as students who did not bully their peers, and the relation between popularity and bullying behavior was the strongest for 6th grade male adolescents. With respect to peer affiliation and bullying, 75% of bullies nominated fellow bullies as friends, suggesting that bullies hang out with other bullies. Twenty-percent of victims scored within the clinical range on a standard depression and anxiety measure. This study provides initial support for the notion that bullying or teasing might be a strategy for obtaining power and status within the middle school.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)123-142
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Emotional Abuse
Issue number2-3
StatePublished - Dec 1 2001


  • Adolescence
  • Bullying
  • Middle school
  • Peers
  • Victimization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine

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