Individual and social network predictors of the short-term stability of bullying victimization in the United Kingdom and Germany
Background. There is still relatively little research on the social context within which bullying develops and remains stable. Aim. This study examined the short-term stability of bullying victimization among primary school students in the United Kingdom and Germany (mean age, 8.9 years) and the individual and social network factors that contributed to remaining a victim of bullying. Sample. The sample consisted of 454 children (247 males and 207 females). Methods. Participants completed questionnaires on bullying victimization at three assessment points over a 9-week period. Other measures consisted of self-reported demographic, peer, and family relationship characteristics. Social network indices of density, reciprocity, and hierarchy were constructed using friendship and peer acceptance nominations. Results. Relative risk analyses indicated a six-fold increased risk of remaining a victim at consequent follow-ups, compared to a child not victimized at baseline becoming a victim over the follow-up period. Individual characteristics explained substantially more variance in the stability of bullying victimization than class-level factors. Hierarchical logistic regression analyses revealed that being victimized by siblings and being rejected by peers predicted remaining a victim over a 9-week period. Conclusions. Bullying victimization among primary school students proved moderately stable over a 9-week period. Individual characteristics were more influential in predicting the stable victim role than class-level factors. Our findings have implications for the identification of stable victims in primary school and early preventative bullying programs.