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Psychological adjustment in bullies and victims of school violence

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The present study examined psychosocial adjustment in the following four groups of students: victims, bullies, bully/victims and a control group of adolescents not involved in bullying or victimization problems. Psychosocial adjustment was measured considering as indicators: level of self-esteem, depressive symptomatology, perceived stress, feeling of loneliness, and a general measure of satisfaction with life. Participants (N=1319) were aged from 11 to 16 (47% male) and drawn from seven state secondary schools in Valencia (Spain). ANOVAs revealed significant differences among groups, reporting adolescents not involved a general better psychosocial adjustment; they had higher levels of self-esteem and satisfaction with life, and lower levels of depressive symptomatology, perceived stress and feeling of loneliness. The scores for this group were equivalent to those of bullies with respect to self-esteem, depressive symptomatology and loneliness. However, bullies perceived more stress and expressed less satisfaction with life, as did the other two groups, namely victims and bully/victims. Victims reported the strongest feelings of loneliness. Bully/victims seemed to share characteristics with both bullies and victims, though showing more similarities with the latter and a general poor psychosocial profile.


Cette étude examine l’ajustement psychosocial de quatre groupes d’étudiants: victimes, bullies, bully/victimes et un groupe control d’adolescents non impliqués dans de problèmes de bullying ou victimisation. Les indicateurs qu’on a utilisés pour mesurer l’ajustement psychosocial sont: le niveau d’estime de soi, la symptomatologie dépressive, le stress perçu, le sentiment de solitude, et une mesuregénérale de satisfaction avec la propre vie. Les participants (n=1319), âgés de 11 à 16 ans (47% sont des garçons), étaient scolarisés dans sept établissements publics d’éducation secondaire de la Communauté de Valence (Espagne). Des analyses ANOVA ont montré des différences significatives entre les différents groupes. C’est le groupe d’adolescents non impliqués qui a montré le meilleur ajustement psychosocial, avec le plus haut niveau d’estime de soi et de satisfaction avec la propre vie, ainsi que le plus bas niveau de symptomatologie dépressive, de stress perçu et de sentiment de solitude. Les ponctuations en estime de soi, symptomatologie dépressive et solitude de ce dernier groupe sont très proches à celles obtenues par le groupe de bullies. Pourtant, les bullies, et aussi les deux groupes de victimes, ont montré plus de stress et une satisfaction mineur avec la propre vie. Les victimes en général ont informé des plus grands niveaux de solitude. Finalement, les bully/victimes ont montré des caractéristiques partagées avec les bullies et les victimes, bien qu’elles ont présenté plus de similitudes avec les dernières et un pauvre profil psychosocial en général.

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Author information

Correspondence to Estefanía Estévez.

Additional information

This investigation was supported by the Ministry of Education and Science of Spain Research Grant SEJ2004-01742 and co-financed by the European Founds FEDER and the Area of Investigation and Technological Transference of the Valencian Government. The authors also would like to thank the school principals, teachers and students for their participation in this study, as well as Professor Nick Emler for his invaluable assistance in preparing this paper for publication.

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Estévez, E., Murgui, S. & Musitu, G. Psychological adjustment in bullies and victims of school violence. Eur J Psychol Educ 24, 473 (2009).

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Key words

  • Bullying
  • Bully/victim
  • Psychosocial adjustment
  • School violence
  • Victimization