Bullying : Are researchers and children / youth talking about the same thing ?

  • Vaillancourt T
  • Mcdougall P
  • Hymel S
 et al. 
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Given the rapid increase in studies of bullying and peer harassment among youth, it becomes import- ant to understand just what is being researched.This study explored whether the themes that emerged from children’s definitions of bullying were consistent with theoretical and methodological opera- tionalizations within the research literature, and whether the provision of a definition when admin- istering bullying experience items would lead to different prevalence rates in reported victimization and bullying. Students aged 8–18 (N = 1767) were randomly assigned to one of two conditions. In the first condition, students were provided with a standard bullying definition; in the second condition, students provided their own definition of bullying. Results indicated that students’ defi- nitions of bullying rarely included the three prominent definitional criteria typically endorsed by researchers: intentionality (1.7%), repetition (6%), and power imbalance (26%), although almost all students (92%) did emphasize negative behaviors in their definition. Younger children made more mention of physical aggression, general harassing behaviors, and verbal aggression in their defi- nitions, whereas the theme of relational aggression was most prominent in the middle years and reported more by girls than boys. Finally, students who were given a definition of bullying reported being victimized less than students not provided with a definition. As well, boys who were given a definition of bullying tended to report higher levels of bullying than those not given a definition (marginal effect).

Author-supplied keywords

  • Bullying
  • definitions
  • prevalence
  • randomized

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  • Tracy Vaillancourt

  • Patricia Mcdougall

  • Shelley Hymel

  • Amanda Krygsman

  • Jessie Miller

  • Kelley Stiver

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