Early Risk Factors for Being a Bully, Victim, or Bully/Victim in Late Elementary and Early Secondary Education. The longitudinal TRAILS study
Bullying is a serious problem in schools all over the world. Studies show that 20% to 54% of school children are repeatedly involved in bullying as perpetrators and/or as victims. Research on bullying mostly focuses on characteristics of children at the moment they already are involved in bullying. Data regarding the impact of early risk factors on later involvement in bullying however are scarce. Aim of this study was to assess the impact of preschool behaviors (age 4/5), family characteristics (socio-economic status, family breakup) and parental mental health on bullying and victimization at age 11 (T1) and age 13.5 (T2). We used longitudinal data from a subsample of the TRacking Adolescents’ Individual Lives Survey (TRAILS). TRAILS is a prospective cohort study of adolescent mental health in a mixed urban and rural region of the Netherlands.
The results of the study show that children with preschool anxiety were less likely to be bully/victim at age 11. Children with preschool aggressiveness were more likely to be bully (age 11), bully/victim (age 11-13.5) and victim (age 13.5) and children with good preschool motor functioning were more likely to be bully (age 11) and less likely to be victim (age 11-13.5). Children from low socioeconomic status families were more likely be to be bully, victim, or bully/victim and less likely to be uninvolved both at age 11-13.5. Finally, children from intact two parent families were more likely to be uninvolved at 13.5.
Preschool behavioral, emotional and motor problems, socioeconomic status, and family breakup are related to involvement in bullying at a later age. Prevention of bullying and its consequences can be enhanced by focusing on risk groups in early life.