Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology

, Volume 42, Issue 6, pp 953–966 | Cite as

Executive Functioning and Non-Verbal Intelligence as Predictors of Bullying in Early Elementary School

  • Marina Verlinden
  • René Veenstra
  • Akhgar Ghassabian
  • Pauline W. Jansen
  • Albert Hofman
  • Vincent W. V. Jaddoe
  • Frank C. Verhulst
  • Henning Tiemeier


Executive function and intelligence are negatively associated with aggression, yet the role of executive function has rarely been examined in the context of school bullying. We studied whether different domains of executive function and non-verbal intelligence are associated with bullying involvement in early elementary school. The association was examined in a population-based sample of 1,377 children. At age 4 years we assessed problems in inhibition, shifting, emotional control, working memory and planning/organization, using a validated parental questionnaire (the BRIEF-P). Additionally, we determined child non-verbal IQ at age 6 years. Bullying involvement as a bully, victim or a bully-victim in grades 1–2 of elementary school (mean age 7.7 years) was measured using a peer-nomination procedure. Individual bullying scores were based on the ratings by multiple peers (on average 20 classmates). Analyses were adjusted for various child and maternal socio-demographic and psychosocial covariates. Child score for inhibition problems was associated with the risk of being a bully (OR per SD = 1.35, 95%CI: 1.09–1.66), victim (OR per SD = 1.21, 95%CI: 1.00–1.45) and a bully-victim (OR per SD = 1.55, 95%CI: 1.10–2.17). Children with higher non-verbal IQ were less likely to be victims (OR = 0.99, 95%CI: 0.98–1.00) and bully-victims (OR = 95%CI: 0.93–0.98, respectively). In conclusion, our study showed that peer interactions may be to some extent influenced by children’s executive function and non-verbal intelligence. Future studies should examine whether training executive function skills can reduce bullying involvement and improve the quality of peer relationships.


Bullying Victimization Cognition IQ Executive function 



Odds ratio


Confidence interval


Behavior rating inventory of executive function-preschool version


Child behavior checklist


Peer evaluation of relationships at school

Supplementary material

10802_2013_9832_MOESM1_ESM.docx (81 kb)
Supplementary Figure(DOCX 81 kb)
10802_2013_9832_MOESM2_ESM.docx (21 kb)
Supplementary Table 1(DOCX 21 kb)
10802_2013_9832_MOESM3_ESM.docx (19 kb)
Supplementary Table 2(DOCX 18.7 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marina Verlinden
    • 1
    • 2
  • René Veenstra
    • 3
  • Akhgar Ghassabian
    • 1
    • 2
  • Pauline W. Jansen
    • 2
  • Albert Hofman
    • 4
  • Vincent W. V. Jaddoe
    • 1
    • 4
    • 5
  • Frank C. Verhulst
    • 2
  • Henning Tiemeier
    • 2
    • 4
    • 6
  1. 1.The Generation R Study GroupErasmus University Medical CenterRotterdamThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Department of Child and Adolescent PsychiatryErasmus University Medical Center, Sophia Children’s HospitalRotterdamThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Department of Sociology and Interuniversity Center for Social Science Theory and Methodology (ICS)University of GroningenGroningenThe Netherlands
  4. 4.Department of EpidemiologyErasmus University Medical CenterRotterdamThe Netherlands
  5. 5.Department of PediatricsErasmus University Medical CenterRotterdamThe Netherlands
  6. 6.Department of PsychiatryErasmus University Medical CenterRotterdamThe Netherlands

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