Background Few studies have attempted to explore attitudes towards bullying among prisoners, despite acknowledgement that attitudes may play an important role.

Aim To evaluate the structure of a new attitudinal scale, the Prison Bullying Scale (PBS), with adult men and women in prison and with young male prisoners.

Hypotheses That attitudes would be represented as a multidimensional construct and that the PBS structure would be replicated across confirmatory samples.

Method The PBS was developed and confirmed across four independent studies using item parceling and confirmatory factor analysis: Study I comprised 412 adult male prisoners; Study II, 306 adult male prisoners; Study III, 171 male young offenders; and Study IV, 148 adult women prisoners.

Results Attitudes were represented as a multidimensional construct comprising seven core factors. The exploratory analysis was confirmed in adult male samples, with some confirmation among young offenders and adult women. The fit for young offenders was adequate and improved by factor covariance. The fit for women was the poorest overall.

Conclusion The study notes the importance of developing ecologically valid measures and statistically testing these measures prior to their clinical or research use.

Implications The development of the PBS holds value both as an assessment and as a research measure and remains the only ecologically validated measure in existence to assess prisoner attitudes towards bullying. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.