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Keywords:

  • bullying;
  • power;
  • empowerment;
  • parenting;
  • family;
  • youth violence;
  • adolescents;
  • adolescence;
  • HBSC

Abstract

We explore the development of bullying and victimization in school by investigating 11-, 13- and 15-year-olds' sense of interpersonal empowerment with parents, friends and teachers. A national sample of 4386 male and female students from 243 middle and secondary schools in Italy were surveyed. Boys were more likely than girls to be bullies and more likely to have been a bully/victim. Victimization and the likelihood of being both a bully and a victim declined with age. Bullying increased with age among boys whereas for girls it was slightly more prevalent at age 13 than ages 11 or 15. The sense of empowerment students experience with their teachers decreased in the older cohorts. Disempowered relationships with teachers consistently predicted bullying behaviour. Higher social competence was reported by 13- and 15-year-old bullies. Chronically bullied students had lower social competence in all age cohorts. Otherwise, predictors of victimization varied by age: 11-year-old victims felt less empowered by their teachers; 15-year-old victims reported more difficulties in negotiating cooperative relationships with parents. Bullies in all cohorts and younger bully/victims feel less empowered by their teachers. These findings suggest that students who are disempowered by teachers may either compensate by oppressing (bullying) peers or generalize the power differential with peers (become a victim). Copyright © 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.