Few studies have examined whether dimensions of school engagement are differentially associated with bullying victimization and perpetration, behaviors that undermine the capacity to achieve academically and increase risk for depression and school dropout. We investigated associations between affective, cognitive, and behavioral engagement upon entry into middle school and four types of bullying behaviors (i.e., relational and physical victimization and perpetration) 6 months later. Our sample was comprised of an ethnically diverse cohort of students attending middle schools characterized by lower than state average standardized test scores and located in socioeconomically vulnerable communities. Results from multivariable logistic regression models that included all three measures of engagement suggest that affective engagement reduced the odds of the three types of bullying behaviors that increased over the study period, regardless of sex or ethnic group. Tests of moderation by sex yielded some differences in the association between behavioral engagement and bullying behaviors. Findings highlight the potential promise of strengthening bonds between students and teachers as a strategy to reduce bullying and encourage healthy development in under resourced contexts.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Appleton, J. J., Christenson, S. L., Kim, D., & Reschly, A. L. (2006). Measuring cognitive and psychological engagement: Validation of the Student Engagement Instrument. Journal of School Psychology,44(5), 427–445. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jsp.2006.04.002.
Austin, G., & Duerr, M. (2004). Guidebook for the California Healthy Kids Survey. Part I: Administration. 2004–2005 edition. WestED (NJ1).
Balfanz, R., & Byrnes, V. (2006). Closing the mathematics achievement gap in high-poverty middle schools: Enablers and constraints. Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk,11(2), 143–159. https://doi.org/10.1207/s15327671espr1102_2.
Balfanz, R., Herzog, L., & Mac Iver, D. J. (2007). Preventing student disengagement and keeping students on the graduation path in urban middle-grades schools: Early identification and effective interventions. Educational Psychologist,42(4), 223–235. https://doi.org/10.1080/00461520701621079.
Bingham, G. E., & Okagaki, L. (2012). Handbook of research on student engagement. Boston, MA: Springer.
Borowsky, I. W., Ireland, M., & Resnick, M. D. (2002). Violence risk and protective factors among youth held back in school. Ambulatory Pediatrics,2(6), 475–484. https://doi.org/10.1367/1539-4409(2002)002%3c0475:VRAPFA%3e2.0.CO;2.
Bradshaw, C. P., Koth, C. W., Thornton, L. A., & Leaf, P. J. (2009). Altering school climate through school-wide positive behavioral interventions and supports: Findings from a group-randomized effectiveness trial. Prevention Science,10(2), 100. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11121-008-0114-9.
Buhs, E. S., Ladd, G. W., & Herald, S. L. (2006). Peer exclusion and victimization: Processes that mediate the relation between peer group rejection and children’s classroom engagement and achievement? Journal of Educational Psychology,98(1), 1. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-06126.96.36.199.
Catalano, R. F., Oesterle, S., Fleming, C. B., & Hawkins, J. D. (2004). The importance of bonding to school for healthy development: Findings from the Social Development Research Group. Journal of School Health,74(7), 252–261. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1746-1561.2004.tb08281.x.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2011). Bullying among middle school and high school students—Massachusetts, 2009. https://doi.org/10.1177/1942602x14563683
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018). Youth risk behavior survey—Data summary & trends report: 2007–2017.
Chapman, R. L., Buckley, L., Sheehan, M. C., Shochet, I. M., & Romaniuk, M. (2011). The impact of school connectedness on violent behavior, transport risk-taking behavior, and associated injuries in adolescence. Journal of School Psychology,49(4), 399–410. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jsp.2011.04.004.
Cleary, S. D. (2000). Adolescent victimization and associated suicidal and violent behaviors. Adolescence,35(140), 671.
Cornell, D., Gregory, A., Huang, F., & Fan, X. (2013). Perceived prevalence of teasing and bullying predicts high school dropout rates. Journal of Educational Psychology,105(1), 138. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0030416.
Cunningham, N. J. (2007). Level of bonding to school and perception of the school environment by bullies, victims, and bully victims. The Journal of Early Adolescence,27(4), 457–478. https://doi.org/10.1177/0272431607302940.
Decker, D. M., Dona, D. P., & Christenson, S. L. (2007). Behaviorally at-risk African American students: The importance of student–teacher relationships for student outcomes. Journal of School Psychology,45(1), 83–109. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jsp.2006.09.004.
Dishion, T. J., & Owen, L. D. (2002). A longitudinal analysis of friendships and substance use: Bidirectional influence from adolescence to adulthood. Developmental Psychology,38(4), 480. https://doi.org/10.1037//0012-16188.8.131.520.
Dodge, K. A., Malone, P. S., Lansford, J. E., Miller, S., Pettit, G. S., & Bates, J. E. (2009). A dynamic cascade model of the development of substance-use onset. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development,74(3), vii-119. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1540-5834.2009.00528.x.
Doll, B., & Hess, R. S. (2001). Through a new lens: Contemporary psychological perspectives on school completion and dropping out of high school. School Psychology Quarterly,16(4), 351. https://doi.org/10.1521/scpq.16.4.351.19895.
Dotterer, A. M., & Lowe, K. (2011). Classroom context, school engagement, and academic achievement in early adolescence. Journal of Youth and Adolescence,40(12), 1649–1660. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-011-9647-5.
Duncan, G. J., & Murnane, R. J. (2011). Whither opportunity? Rising inequality, schools, and children’s life chances. New York: Russell Sage Foundation. https://doi.org/10.1002/pam.21627.
Eccles, J. (2009). Who am I and what am I going to do with my life? Personal and collective identities as motivators of action. Educational Psychologist,44(2), 78–89. https://doi.org/10.1080/00461520902832368.
Eisenberg, M. E., Neumark-Sztainer, D., & Story, M. (2003). Associations of weight-based teasing and emotional well-being among adolescents. Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine,157(8), 733–738. https://doi.org/10.1001/archpedi.157.8.733.
Finn, J. D., & Rock, D. A. (1997). Academic success among students at risk for school failure. Journal of Applied Psychology, 82(2), 221.
Forero, R., McLellan, L., Rissel, C., & Bauman, A. (1999). Bullying behaviour and psychosocial health among school students in New South Wales, Australia: Cross sectional survey. BMJ, 319(7206), 344–348.
Forster, M., Dyal, S. R., Baezconde-Garbanati, L., Chou, C. P., Soto, D. W., & Unger, J. B. (2013). Bullying victimization as a mediator of associations between cultural/familial variables, substance use, and depressive symptoms among Hispanic youth. Ethnicity and Health,18(4), 415–432. https://doi.org/10.1080/13557858.2012.754407.
Forster, M., Gower, A. L., Borowsky, I. W., & McMorris, B. J. (2017). Associations between adverse childhood experiences, student–teacher relationships, and non-medical use of prescription medications among adolescents. Addictive Behaviors,68, 30–34. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.addbeh.2017.01.004.
Fredricks, J. A., Blumenfeld, P. C., & Paris, A. H. (2004). School engagement: Potential of the concept, state of the evidence. Review of Educational Research,74(1), 59–109. https://doi.org/10.3102/00346543074001059.
French, D. C., & Conrad, J. (2001). School dropout as predicted by peer rejection and antisocial behavior. Journal of Research on Adolescence,11(3), 225–244. https://doi.org/10.1111/1532-7795.00011.
Furrer, C., & Skinner, E. (2003). Sense of relatedness as a factor in children’s academic engagement and performance. Journal of Educational Psychology,95(1), 148. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-06184.108.40.206.
Garriott, M. (2007). Intervene now so they will graduate later. Principal,86(5), 60–61.
Gifford-Smith, M., Dodge, K. A., Dishion, T. J., & McCord, J. (2005). Peer influence in children and adolescents: Crossing the bridge from developmental to intervention science. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology,33(3), 255–265. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10802-005-3563-7.
Gladden, R. M. (2014). Bullying surveillance among youths: Uniform definitions for public health and recommended data elements. Version 1.0. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Goodenow, C. (1993). Classroom belonging among early adolescent students: Relationships to motivation and achievement. The Journal of Early Adolescence,13(1), 21–43. https://doi.org/10.1177/0272431693013001002.
Gower, A. L., & Borowsky, I. W. (2013). Associations between frequency of bullying involvement and adjustment in adolescence. Academic Pediatrics,13(3), 214–221. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.acap.2013.02.004.
Graham, J. W., Olchowski, A. E., & Gilreath, T. D. (2007). How many imputations are really needed? Some practical clarifications of multiple imputation theory. Prevention Science,8(3), 206–213. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11121-007-0070-9.
Gregory, A., Skiba, R. J., & Noguera, P. A. (2010). The achievement gap and the discipline gap: Two sides of the same coin? Educational Researcher,39(1), 59–68. https://doi.org/10.3102/0013189X09357621.
Griffiths, A. J., Lilles, E., Furlong, M. J., & Sidhwa, J. (2012). The relations of adolescent student engagement with troubling and high-risk behaviors. In Handbook of research on student engagement (pp. 563–584). Springer. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4614-2018-7_27.
Hartup, W. W. (1989). Social relationships and their developmental significance. American Psychologist,44(2), 120. https://doi.org/10.1037/0003-066X.44.2.120.
Hawker, D. S., & Boulton, M. J. (2000). Twenty years’ research on peer victimization and psychosocial maladjustment: A meta-analytic review of cross-sectional studies. The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and Allied Disciplines,41(4), 441–455. https://doi.org/10.1111/1469-7610.00629.
Hawkins, R. L., Jaccard, J., & Needle, E. (2013). Nonacademic factors associated with dropping out of high school: Adolescent problem behaviors. Journal of the Society for Social Work and Research,4(2), 58–75. https://doi.org/10.5243/jsswr.2013.5.
Hawkins, J. D., Kosterman, R., Catalano, R. F., Hill, K. G., & Abbott, R. D. (2008). Effects of social development intervention in childhood 15 years later. Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine,162(12), 1133–1141. https://doi.org/10.1001/archpedi.162.12.1133.
Haynie, D. L., Nansel, T., Eitel, P., Crump, A. D., Saylor, K., Yu, K., et al. (2001). Bullies, victims, and bully/victims: Distinct groups of at-risk youth. The Journal of Early Adolescence,21(1), 29–49. https://doi.org/10.1177/0272431601021001002.
Hemphill, S. A., Kotevski, A., Herrenkohl, T. I., Bond, L., Kim, M. J., Toumbourou, J. W., et al. (2011). Longitudinal consequences of adolescent bullying perpetration and victimisation: A study of students in Victoria. Australia. Criminal Behaviour and Mental Health,21(2), 107–116. https://doi.org/10.1002/cbm.802.
Henry, K. L., Knight, K. E., & Thornberry, T. P. (2012). School disengagement as a predictor of dropout, delinquency, and problem substance use during adolescence and early adulthood. Journal of Youth and Adolescence,41(2), 156–166. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-011-9665-3.
Henry, K. L., Thornberry, T. P., & Huizinga, D. H. (2009). A discrete-time survival analysis of the relationship between truancy and the onset of marijuana use. Journal of studies on alcohol and drugs,70(1), 5–15. https://doi.org/10.15288/jsad.2009.70.5.
Heppen, J. B., & Therriault, S. B. (2008). Developing early warning systems to identify potential high school dropouts. Issue Brief. National High School Center.
Janosz, M., Archambault, I., Pagani, L. S., Pascal, S., Morin, A. J., & Bowen, F. (2008). Are there detrimental effects of witnessing school violence in early adolescence? Journal of Adolescent Health,43(6), 600–608. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jadohealth.2008.04.011.
Janosz, M., Le Blanc, M., Boulerice, B., & Tremblay, R. E. (2000). Predicting different types of school dropouts: A typological approach with two longitudinal samples. Journal of Educational Psychology,92(1), 171. https://doi.org/10.1037//0022-06220.127.116.11.
Jimerson, S. R., Campos, E., & Greif, J. L. (2003). Toward an understanding of definitions and measures of school engagement and related terms. The California School Psychologist,8(1), 7–27. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF03340893.
Juvonen, J., & Graham, S. (2014). Bullying in schools: The power of bullies and the plight of victims. Annual Review of Psychology,65, 159–185. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-psych-010213-115030.
Juvonen, J., Graham, S., & Schuster, M. A. (2003). Bullying among young adolescents: The strong, the weak, and the troubled. Pediatrics,112(6), 1231–1237. https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.112.6.1231.
Kelly, A. B., Chan, G. C., Toumbourou, J. W., O’Flaherty, M., Homel, R., Patton, G. C., & Williams, J. (2012). Very young adolescents and alcohol: Evidence of a unique susceptibility to peer alcohol use. Addictive Behaviors, 37(4), 414–419.
Kim, Y. S., Koh, Y.-J., & Leventhal, B. (2005). School bullying and suicidal risk in Korean middle school students. Pediatrics,115(2), 357–363. https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2004-0902.
Klomek, A. B., Marrocco, F., Kleinman, M., Schonfeld, I. S., & Gould, M. S. (2007). Bullying, depression, and suicidality in adolescents. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry,46(1), 40–49. https://doi.org/10.1097/01.chi.0000242237.84925.18.
Lerner, J. V., Phelps, E., Forman, Y. E., & Bowers, E. P. (2009). Positive youth development. Handbook of Adolescent Psychology, 1.
Li, Y., & Lerner, R. M. (2011). Trajectories of school engagement during adolescence: Implications for grades, depression, delinquency, and substance use. Developmental Psychology,47(1), 233. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0021307.
Luthar, S. S., & Ansary, N. S. (2005). Dimensions of adolescent rebellion: Risks for academic failure among high-and low-income youth. Development and Psychopathology, 17(1), 231–250.
Marks, H. M. (2000). Student engagement in instructional activity: Patterns in the elementary, middle, and high school years. American Educational Research Journal,37(1), 153–184. https://doi.org/10.2307/1163475.
McDougall, P., Vaillancourt, T., & Hymel, S. (2009). What happens over time to those who bully and those who are victimized? In S. Hymel & S. Swearer (Eds.), Bullying at school and online [Special edition of Education.com].
Mehta, S. B., Cornell, D., Fan, X., & Gregory, A. (2013). Bullying climate and school engagement in ninth-grade students. Journal of School Health,83(1), 45–52. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1746-1561.2012.00746.x.
Miller, R. B., Greene, B. A., Montalvo, G. P., Ravindran, B., & Nichols, J. D. (1996). Engagement in academic work: The role of learning goals, future consequences, pleasing others, and perceived ability. Contemporary Educational Psychology,21(4), 388–422. https://doi.org/10.1006/ceps.1996.0028.
Mills, C., Guerin, S., Lynch, F., Daly, I., & Fitzpatrick, C. (2004). The relationship between bullying, depression and suicidal thoughts/behaviour in Irish adolescents. Irish Journal of Psychological Medicine,21(4), 112–116. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0790966700008521.
Murray, C., & Malmgren, K. (2005). Implementing a teacher–student relationship program in a high-poverty urban school: Effects on social, emotional, and academic adjustment and lessons learned. Journal of School Psychology,43(2), 137–152. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jsp.2005.01.003.
Nansel, T. R., Overpeck, M., Pilla, R. S., Ruan, W. J., Simons-Morton, B., & Scheidt, P. (2001). Bullying behaviors among US youth: Prevalence and association with psychosocial adjustment. JAMA,285(16), 2094–2100. https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.285.16.2094.
National Research Council. (2003). Engaging schools: Fostering high school students’ motivation to learn. Washington: National Academies Press.
Neild, R. C., & Balfanz, R. (2006). An extreme degree of difficulty: The educational demographics of urban neighborhood high schools. Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk,11(2), 123–141. https://doi.org/10.1207/s15327671espr1102_1.
Patrick, H., Ryan, A. M., & Kaplan, A. (2007). Early adolescents’ perceptions of the classroom social environment, motivational beliefs, and engagement. Journal of Educational Psychology,99(1), 83. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-0618.104.22.168.
Perkins, D. F., & Borden, L. M. (2003). Positive behaviors, problem behaviors, and resiliency in adolescence. Handbook of Psychology. https://doi.org/10.1002/0471264385.wei0615.
Pozzoli, T., & Gini, G. (2010). Active defending and passive bystanding behavior in bullying: The role of personal characteristics and perceived peer pressure. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology,38(6), 815–827. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10802-010-9399-9.
Raghunathan, T. E., Lepkowski, J. M., Van Hoewyk, J., & Solenberger, P. (2001). A multivariate technique for multiply imputing missing values using a sequence of regression models. Survey Methodology,27(1), 85–96.
Reschly, A. L., & Christenson, S. L. (2012). Jingle, jangle, and conceptual haziness: Evolution and future directions of the engagement construct. In Handbook of research on student engagement (pp. 3–19). Springer. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4614-2018-7_1
Roland, E. (2002). Bullying, depressive symptoms and suicidal thoughts. Educational Research,44(1), 55–67. https://doi.org/10.1080/00131880110107351.
Rubin, D. B. (1987). The calculation of posterior distributions by data augmentation: Comment: A noniterative sampling/importance resampling alternative to the data augmentation algorithm for creating a few imputations when fractions of missing information are modest: The SIR algorithm. Journal of the American Statistical Association,82(398), 543–546. https://doi.org/10.2307/2289460.
Ryan, R. M., Stiller, J. D., & Lynch, J. H. (1994). Representations of relationships to teachers, parents, and friends as predictors of academic motivation and self-esteem. The Journal of Early Adolescence,14(2), 226–249. https://doi.org/10.1177/027243169401400207.
Schwartz, D., Gorman, A. H., Nakamoto, J., & Toblin, R. L. (2005). Victimization in the peer group and children’s academic functioning. Journal of Educational Psychology,97(3), 425. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-0622.214.171.1245.
Shernoff, D. J., & Schmidt, J. A. (2008). Further evidence of an engagement–achievement paradox among US high school students. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 37(5), 564–580.
Skiba, R. J., Horner, R. H., Chung, C.-G., Rausch, M. K., May, S. L., & Tobin, T. (2011). Race is not neutral: A national investigation of African American and Latino disproportionality in school discipline. School Psychology Review,40(1), 85.
Skinner, E. A., Kindermann, T. A., & Furrer, C. J. (2009). A motivational perspective on engagement and disaffection: Conceptualization and assessment of children’s behavioral and emotional participation in academic activities in the classroom. Educational and Psychological Measurement,69, 493–525. https://doi.org/10.1177/0013164408323233.
Smokowski, P. R., Evans, C. B., & Cotter, K. L. (2014). The differential impacts of episodic, chronic, and cumulative physical bullying and cyberbullying: The effects of victimization on the school experiences, social support, and mental health of rural adolescents. Violence and Victims,29(6), 1029–1046. https://doi.org/10.1891/0886-6708.VV-D-13-00076.
Solberg, M. E., & Olweus, D. (2003). Prevalence estimation of school bullying with the Olweus Bully/Victim Questionnaire. Aggressive Behavior: Official Journal of the International Society for Research on Aggression,29(3), 239–268. https://doi.org/10.1002/ab.10047.
Spear, L. P. (2000). Neurobehavioral changes in adolescence. Current Directions in Psychological Science,9(4), 111–114. https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-8721.00072.
StataCorp, L. (2017). Stata statistical software: Release 15 computer program. College Station, TX: StataCorp LLC.
Strøm, I. F., Thoresen, S., Wentzel-Larsen, T., & Dyb, G. (2013). Violence, bullying and academic achievement: A study of 15-year-old adolescents and their school environment. Child Abuse and Neglect,37(4), 243–251. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chiabu.2012.10.010.
Tharp-Taylor, S., Haviland, A., & D’Amico, E. J. (2009). Victimization from mental and physical bullying and substance use in early adolescence. Addictive Behaviors,34(6–7), 561–567. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.addbeh.2009.03.012.
Ungar, M., & Liebenberg, L. (2013). Ethnocultural factors, resilience, and school engagement. School Psychology International, 34(5), 514–526.
Useem, E., Offenberg, R., & Farley, E. (2007). Closing the teacher quality gap in Philadelphia: New hope and old hurdles. Philadelphia: Research for Action. https://www.researchforaction.org/.
Van Buuren, S. (2007). Multiple imputation of discrete and continuous data by fully conditional specification. Statistical Methods in Medical Research,16(3), 219–242. https://doi.org/10.1177/0962280206074463.
Van Buuren, S., Boshuizen, H. C., & Knook, D. L. (1999). Multiple imputation of missing blood pressure covariates in survival analysis. Statistics in Medicine,18(6), 681–694. https://doi.org/10.1002/(SICI)1097-0258(19990330)18:6%3c681:AID-SIM71%3e3.0.CO;2-R.
Van Buuren, S., & Oudshoorn, C. (2000). Multivariate imputation by chained equations: MICE V1. 0 Users’ manual. TNO Prevention and Health, Public Health. Inc.
Van der Wal, M. F., De Wit, C. A., & Hirasing, R. A. (2003). Psychosocial health among young victims and offenders of direct and indirect bullying. Pediatrics,111(6), 1312–1317. https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.111.6.1312.
Vanderbilt, D., & Augustyn, M. (2010). The effects of bullying. Paediatrics and child health,20(7), 315–320. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paed.2010.03.008.
Wang, M. T., & Eccles, J. S. (2013). School context, achievement motivation, and academic engagement: A longitudinal study of school engagement using a multidimensional perspective. Learning and Instruction,28, 12–23. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.learninstruc.2013.04.002.
Wang, M.-T., & Holcombe, R. (2010). Adolescents’ perceptions of school environment, engagement, and academic achievement in middle school. American Educational Research Journal,47(3), 633–662. https://doi.org/10.3102/0002831209361209.
Wang, J., Iannotti, R. J., & Nansel, T. R. (2009). School bullying among adolescents in the United States: Physical, verbal, relational, and cyber. Journal of Adolescent Health,45(4), 368–375. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jadohealth.2009.03.021.
Wang, M.-T., & Peck, S. C. (2013). Adolescent educational success and mental health vary across school engagement profiles. Developmental Psychology,49(7), 1266. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0030028.
Whitlock, J. L. (2006). Youth perceptions of life at school: Contextual correlates of school connectedness in adolescence. Applied Developmental Science,10(1), 13–29. https://doi.org/10.1207/s1532480xads1001_2.
Wilson, B., & Corbett, H. (2001). Listening to urban kids: School improvement and the teachers they want. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.
Funding was provided by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Grant No. U48DP005011).
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
About this article
Cite this article
Forster, M., Gower, A.L., Gloppen, K. et al. Associations Between Dimensions of School Engagement and Bullying Victimization and Perpetration Among Middle School Students. School Mental Health 12, 296–307 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12310-019-09350-0
- Physical bullying
- Relational bullying
- School engagement
- Middle school