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Bullying Perpetration, Victimization, and Low Self-esteem: Examining Their Relationship Over Time

Abstract

Bullying experiences in adolescents could cause maladjusted developments like low self-esteem, which in turn could increase the likelihood of having bullying experiences. Examining these longitudinal reciprocal relationships by considering the co-occurrence of bullying experience is critical, but under-examined. The current study clarifies the longitudinal reciprocal relationship between adolescents’ bullying perpetration, victimization, and low self-esteem. An autoregressive cross-lagged model was analyzed with data collected from 3658 Korean secondary students (47.2% were females, Mean age = 12.07, standard deviation = 0.27, range = 11–14) from the Seoul Education Longitudinal study in three waves (seventh to ninth grades). After controlling prior bullying perpetration, victimization, and low self-esteem, low self-esteem positively predicted subsequent victimization, and victimization also positively predicted subsequent low self-esteem longitudinally. However, low self-esteem failed to predict subsequent bullying perpetration, which in turn, failed to predict subsequent low self-esteem. After the prior bullying experiences and low self-esteem are controlled, their longitudinal association becomes clearly distinct. Victims of bullying may fall into a vicious circle, where after being victimized, they themselves feel unlovable or incompetent, and their increased low self-esteem is linked to subsequent victimization. To break out of this vicious circle and temporal stability of victimization, interventions focusing on victims’ self-esteem would be effective.

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Authors’ Contributions

B.C. conceived of the study, participated in its design and coordination, performed the statistical analysis, interpretation of the data and drafted the manuscript; S.P. performed the statistical analysis, participated in the interpretation of the data and helped to draft the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Data Sharing and Declaration

The data that support the findings of this study are available from the Seoul Education Research & Information Institute, but restrictions apply to the availability of these data, which were used under license for the current study, and so are not publicly available. However, data are available from the authors upon reasonable request and with permission of the Seoul Education Research & Information Institute.

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Choi, B., Park, S. Bullying Perpetration, Victimization, and Low Self-esteem: Examining Their Relationship Over Time. J Youth Adolescence 50, 739–752 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-020-01379-8

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Keywords

  • Low self-esteem
  • Bullying perpetration
  • Victimization
  • Longitudinal relationship