Exploring Bullying Perpetration and Victimization Among Adolescent Girls in the Child Welfare System: Bully-Only, Victim-Only, Bully-Victim, and Noninvolved Roles


By bhadmin February 2, 2021

Childhood abuse is a common experience for youth in the child welfare system, increasing their risk of bullying perpetration and victimization. Little research exists that has examined the rates of bullying perpetration and victimization for child welfare–involved adolescent girls. The study addressed the following aims: (a) to generate frequency estimates of physical, nonphysical, and relational forms of bullying perpetration and victimization; (b) to identify the frequency of bully-only, victim-only, bully-victim, and noninvolved roles; and (c) to identify risk and protective factors that correlate with these bullying role types. Participants were 236 girls (12-19 years) in the child welfare system from a Midwestern urban area. Participants were referred to the study to join a trauma-focused group program. Seventy-five percent of the total sample were youth of color, with the remaining 25% identifying as White, non-Hispanic. Data were collected through baseline surveys that assessed childhood abuse, bullying perpetration and victimization, posttraumatic stress, substance misuse, aggression-related beliefs and self-efficacy, placement type, placement instability, and mental health service use. Child welfare–involved adolescent girls were found to assume all four major role types: bully-only (6.4%, n = 15), victim-only (20.3%, n = 48), bully-victim (44.1%, n = 104), and nonvictims (29.2%, n = 69). The bully-victim rate was approximately 7 times higher than the rate found in a nationally representative sample of non–child welfare–involved youth. The current study identified posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms, anger self-efficacy, and alcohol use as significant correlates of bullying roles. The identification of a substantially higher rate of bully-victims has important practice implications, suggesting child welfare and school systems adopt trauma-informed systems of care. Bully-victims are very likely traumatized children who are in need of effective trauma treatment rather than punitive sanctions.

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