Empirical Research

Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 39, Issue 9, pp 1041-1052

First online:

Clueless or Powerful? Identifying Subtypes of Bullies in Adolescence

  • Margot PeetersAffiliated withBehavioural Science Institute, Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen Email author 
  • , Antonius H. N. CillessenAffiliated withBehavioural Science Institute, Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen
  • , Ron H. J. ScholteAffiliated withBehavioural Science Institute, Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access


This study examined the heterogeneity of bullying among adolescents. It was hypothesized that bullying behavior serves different social functions and, depending on these functions, bullies will differ in their skills, status and social behavior. In a total sample of 806 8th graders, 120 adolescents (52 boys, 68 girls) were identified as bullies based on peer nominations. An additional group of 50 adolescents (25 boys, 25 girls) served as the non-bully comparison group. Cluster analysis revealed three corresponding bully subtypes for boys and girls: a popular-socially intelligent group, a popular moderate group, and an unpopular-less socially intelligent group. Follow-up analyses showed that the clusters differed significantly from each other in physical and verbal aggression, leadership, network centrality, peer rejection, and self-perceptions of bullying. The results confirm the heterogeneous nature of bullies and the complex nature of bullying in the adolescent peer group.


Bullying Social intelligence Machiavellianism Popularity Relational aggression