Study finds continuity in behavior of bullies, victims

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Remember that bully on the playground in elementary school? A Rowan University study has found that it's not uncommon for elementary school bullies to continue bullying throughout their high school
Remember that bully on the playground in elementary school?

A Rowan University study has found that it's not uncommon for elementary school bullies to continue bullying throughout their high school and college years.

And the same apparently goes for people who have been targets of bullies, according to Rowan developmental psychologist Mark Chapell, lead author of the study, which has been accepted for publication by the journal Adolescence.

According to Chapell, the majority of people who have been bullied in college also report having been bullied in high school and elementary school.

"There is a lot of continuity," says Chapell. "People appear to be targeted for being bullied and for being a bully as well."

Chapell, who conducted the first-ever study on college bullying in 2004 with a sample of 1,025 undergraduates, surveyed 119 college undergrads this time and found that of 25 who were bullied in college, 72 percent had been bullied in high school and elementary school. Conversely, of 26 bullies in college, 53.8 percent had been bullies in high school and elementary school.

In yet another category, of 12 people who were both bullies and victims of bullies (bully-victims) in college, 41.6 percent had been bully-victims in both high school and elementary school, according to the study.

In the study, Chapell and his research team compared types of bullying and found that, overall, bullies used more verbal bullying than social bullying in college, high school and elementary school. Physical bullying was least common.

Chapell's 2004 study found that bullying of college students by teachers or coaches does occur. His most recent study found that verbal bullying of students was the most common type of bullying used by both college teachers and coaches. Social bullying was the next most common.

In examining gender, Chapell found that there were no significant sex differences related to being a bully or a bully-victim. But males were bullied significantly more than female students in elementary school and high school, according to the study. Males were not bullied more than female students in college.

The study notes that there is a reduction of bullying over time?bullying decreases from elementary school to high school to college?but also supports the idea that bullying continues past the school years and into college and even the workplace, according to Chapell.

He notes that while European countries have studied bullying for 35 years, American researchers didn't begin focusing on the issue until about 1999, after the Columbine High School shootings.

"There is a temperament and a certain aggressiveness to bullying," said Chapell. "There are all kinds of elements that go into it. And we see a lot of bullying in the adult workplace."

In coming years, Chapell is looking to expand the study of bullying in college in a number of universities in several states. He also wants to examine the role of ethnicity in bullying.

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