Psychosocial functioning of bullied youth who adopt versus deny the bully-victim label.


This study addressed a need for research on the association between adopting or denying the label of bully victim and students’ psychosocial functioning. Participants were 1,063 students in Grades 5, 7, and 9 in a school district in the northeastern United States. Students were grouped based on their pattern of responses to (a) the California Bully Victimization Scale (Felix et al., 2011), which does not use the term ‘bully,’ but includes behavioral items assessing frequency of peer victimization and whether or not that victimization involved any perceived power disadvantage, and (b) the Olweus Bully/Victim Questionnaire (Solberg & Olweus, 2003; Solberg, Olweus, & Endresen, 2007), which queries self-identification as a bully victim. We compared groups using a series of planned comparisons with ANOVA on self-reported emotional distress and withdrawal, behavioral reactivity and conduct problems, and prosocial behavior and peer competence, as measured by the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (Goodman, 1997). Results revealed complexities regarding the experience of bullying. The perception of a power difference and having been bullied both related to psychosocial functioning in an interactive way, suggesting that both are important to query. Moreover, students who labeled themselves as victims of bullying reported poorer psychosocial functioning than those who had the experience of being bullied but did not adopt that label.