The researchers 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.
During the research, it was found that 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 behaviours, 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," Melissa Holt, a co-author of the research, said.
The authors also exposed eye-opening research about victimization rates for bullies.
"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 added.
During the research, it was also noted 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 behaviours, programs should be expanded to address the internalising problems youth might have experienced as a result of being victimized," Holt said.
The research is presented in the article "Hidden Forms of Victimization in Elementary Students Involved in Bullying," which is published in the issue of School Psychology Review.