Although several studies have shown the combination of bullying perpetration and victimization, scarce research has established whether the patterns of bully-victim differ by types of child maltreatment. In addition, the existing literature has produced inconsistent findings on the association between bully-victim patterns and adolescent behavioral health, including depressive symptoms, problems at schools, and substance use. Thus, this study aimed: 1) to identify underlying heterogeneous patterns of bully-victim; 2) to examine whether the different types of child maltreatment predict the patterns of bully-victim; and 3) to investigate the association between patterns of bully-victim and adolescent behavioral health.
The data derived from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, which is a longitudinal cohort study of families from 20 different cities in the U.S. For this study, children, their parents/caregivers, and teachers who completed the main study variables across all three time points at ages 5, 9, and 15 were included (N = 1271). Self-reported bullying victimization was assessed at age 9 using the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, Child Development Supplement III. Teacher-rated bullying behaviors—aggression towards peers— were measured at age 9 using three items. Child maltreatment types (i.e., psychological aggression, physical assault, and neglect) were assessed at age 5 using the Parent-Child Conflict Tactics Scales Coding. Adolescent behavioral health (age 15) includes depressive symptoms, problems at schools, marijuana use, and alcohol use. Gender, race, and primary caregiver’s education were included as control variables. To address the three aims of the present study, a series of analyses (i.e., latent class analysis, multinomial logistic regression, logistic regression, and ordinary least-squares multiple regression) were employed using Mplus 8.3.
The LCA identified a four-class solution: 1) “bully-victim” group (19.7%); 2) “bully” group (25.5%); 3) “victim” group (16.4%); and 4) “no bully-victim” group (38.5%). Multinomial logistic regression analysis revealed that neglected children—but not other types of maltreatment—were more likely to be in the “victim” group than the “bully-victim” group or the “bully” group. However, when comparing to the probability of membership in the “no bully-victim” group, neglected children were less likely to be involved in the “victim” group. As for the association between patterns of bully-victim and adolescent behavioral health, children in the “victim” group are greater risk for depressive symptoms, problems at school, and alcohol, as compared to those in the other groups.
Conclusion and Implications:
This study elucidates heterogeneous patterns of bully-victim and the salient role of types of child maltreatment within the context of bullying and victimization. Compared to other types of maltreatment, neglected children are particularly vulnerable to peer victimization, which underscore the need for early assessment and treatment of child maltreatment types. These findings also highlight the impact of different bully-victim patterns on adolescent behavioral health, suggesting the need for a deeper understanding of peer bully-victim patterns in order to reduce adolescent behavioral health problems.