Bullying perpetration and subsequent sexual violence perpetration among middle school students

Dorothy L Espelage, Kathleen C Basile, Merle E Hamburger
Journal of Adolescent Health 2012, 50 (1): 60-5

PURPOSE: This study examines the association between bullying experiences and sexual violence (SV) perpetration among a sample of middle school students (n = 1391; males and females in grades 5-8) across five middle schools in a Midwestern state.

METHODS: We include waves 1 and 2 of a larger longitudinal study that aimed to track the overlap between bullying and SV victimization and/or perpetration across a 3-year period. Wave 1 data were collected in the spring of 2008, and wave 2 data were collected in the fall of 2008. Student participants completed a series of scales in a paper and pencil survey. After missing data imputation, a total sample of 1391 students was analyzed.

RESULTS: Using cutoff scores, 12% of males and 12% of females could be considered bully perpetrators. Thirty-two percent of the boys (22% of girls) reported making sexual comments to other students, 5% of boys (7% of girls) spread a sexual rumor, and 4% of boys (2% of girls) pulled at someone's clothing. Bullying perpetration and homophobic teasing were significant predictors of sexual harassment perpetration over time.

CONCLUSIONS: Given the overlap among bullying, homophobic teasing perpetration, and SV perpetration, future studies should address the link among these forms of aggression so that prevention programs can be enhanced to address gender-based bullying and sexual harassment.

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