Bullies and victims at school: Are they the same pupils?


Correspondence should be addressed to Mona E. Solberg, Research Center for Health Promotion, University of Bergen, Christiesgt. 13, N-5015 Bergen, Norway (e-mail: mona.solberg@psyhp.uib.no).


Background. The reported prevalence of bully-victims and aggressive/provocative victims varies quite considerably in previous research, and only a few studies have reported prevalence rates across grades. There is also a lack of detailed analyses of the extent to which victims are also bullies, and bullies are also victims.

Aims. To study the prevalence of male and female bully-victims across grade/age and to establish the degree of overlap or relative size of the bully-victim group by relating them to all victims, all bullies and all involved students.

Samples. Participants in Study 1 were 5,171 pupils in grades 5–9 from 37 schools. Study 2 comprised 12,983 pupils in grades 4–10 from 66 schools.

Methods. The Olweus Bully/Victim Questionnaire was administered to the pupils in their ordinary classrooms.

Results. The prevalence of bully-victims was low and mainly declined across grades. There were far more boys than girls in the bully-victim group. Bully-victims resembled victims only (pure victims) in terms of age-trends and bullies only (pure bullies) in terms of sex composition. The overlap of bully-victims with the total victim group was fairly small (10–20%) in all grades. In primary grades, bully-victims constituted about 30–50% of the total bully group, whereas in higher grades these proportions were considerably lower.

Conclusion. Our analyses and overview of previous research suggest that the bully-victim group is small, and that the large variations across studies are mainly due to differences in choice of cutoff point. Bully-victims should generally be seen and treated statistically as a distinct subgroup. The relatively larger proportion of bully-victims in lower grades should be explored further.