Bullying is a significant public health concern due to its magnitude and detrimental consequences. Agnew’s General Strain Theory (GST) posited that stains trigger negative effects which in turn generate delinquency to cope with those emotions and strains. Therefore, strained youth might perpetrate bullying to ameliorate strains and negative feelings. Empirical studies revealed the association of stressors and bullying. However, limited research tested the effects of strains and negative emotions on bullying perpetration. In addition, a lack of consensus existed across studies about bully-immigrants relationship. This study relied on GST to investigate the role of strains in negative emotions and bullying perpetration. Moreover, this study was one of the first testing the utility of GST with immigrants’ bullying behaviors.
Data were drawn from the Health Behavior in School-Aged Children (HBSC) study 2009-2010 cycle. Samples consisting of 9,227 adolescents were collected through a three-stage stratified design. Three groups of weighed least square regressions were used to explain the outcome variable. Firstly, the outcome variable, bullying perpetration, was regressed on the control variables. Secondly, predictors were added to investigate whether they significantly predict the outcome variable after controlling for demographic variables. Thirdly, negative emotion was included, as were interaction terms linking immigration status to negative emotions and strain variables. All independent variables were centered around their respective grand means.
There were slightly more male participants (51.4%) than female (48.6%). Most participants (91.2%) self-reported as US-born (91.2%), and 8.8% of participants were immigrants. The mean level of bullying behaviors was 12.96 on a 11-55 scale. The mean level of peer victimization was 14.36 on a 11-55 scale. The mean value for negative school experience was 2 on a 1-4 scale. Negative emotions ranged from 5 to 25 and had a mean of 19.14. The multi-variance results demonstrated that strains including peer victimization (p<.001) and negative school experience (p=.044) were significantly and positively associated with bullying perpetration. Although one hypothesis derived from GST predicted a mediating role for negative emotions, instead results suggested that negative emotions directly and positively predicted bullying (p=.007). The associations observed were stronger for native-born children (p<.001). Hispanics were more likely to perpetrate bullying (p=.019). No gender difference was found.
Conclusions and Implications:
This study implicated that in order to safeguard youth against bullying, it is crucial to delineate the strains that youth encountered. This study found that those who experience more strains, including being bullied before, having negative school experience, and encounter negative emotions, were more likely to bully others. Therefore, the incorporation of coping strategies for bully victims, school climate change plans, and emotion management skills holds importance in successful anti-bullying interventions. Also, this study calls for more attention to Hispanic students who were more likely to perpetrate bullying. This study supports the notion that immigrant youth are less likely than native-born individuals to bully others because their traditional and family constraints condition and buffer the effects of strains. Culturally-sensitive anti-bullying programs should strength these conditioning factors to buffer strains and therefore reduce bullying.