Method: Data were derived from the Health Behavior in School-Aged Children (HBSC) survey, and the study uses a cross-sectional research design. Participants are comprised of 1,701 (ages 13-17) adolescents, of which 48.6% was female, and 51.4% was male. For race/ethnicity, 19.1% were Black, 47.5% were White, 19.6% were Hispanic, and 13.8% were other. After controlling for age, gender, and race/ethnicity to test the study hypotheses, structural equation modeling (SEM) was used to test the direct and indirect effects of bully victimization on bully perpetration. The following hypotheses are proposed: (1) bully victimization is associated with an increase in the risk of becoming bullies (direct effect), and (b) low life satisfaction, drug use, and exposure to peer deviance might mediate the link between bully victimization and bully perpetration (indirect effects).
Results: Findings revealed that bully victimization was positively associated with bully perpetration. Moreover, bully/victims displayed lower levels of life satisfaction. Additionally, bully/victims who were frequently exposed to peer deviance and drug use were likely to engage in bullying perpetration. And finally, bully/victims who were exposed to peer deviance were more likely to use drugs, which, in turn, increased their risk of becoming bullies.
Conclusion and Implications: Bullied adolescents who were exposed to peer deviance may have increased opportunities to engage in risky behaviors, such as drug use. Frequent exposure to delinquent peers, particularly those engaging in risky behavior can reinforce sensation-seeking behaviors, which can increase the likelihood of becoming bullies. Effective bullying prevention requires a coordinated and collaborative effort of relevant stakeholders including students, educators, practitioners, researchers, and communities. Anti-bullying legislation might be missing the mark as evidenced by punitive approaches (e.g., Zero-Tolerance) and ambiguously worded and overly broad definition of bullying in the policy provisions. To effectively combat bullying, policy-makers in collaboration with researchers and social work professionals need to consider adolescent development and developmental pathways in their assessment, for example, from bully victimization to problem behaviors, if they are to see any lasting changes.