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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Early risk factors for being a bully, victim, or bully/victim in late elementary and early secondary education. The longitudinal TRAILS study

Danielle EMC Jansen12*, René Veenstra2, Johan Ormel3, Frank C Verhulst4 and Sijmen A Reijneveld5

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Health Sciences, University Medical Center Groningen, University of Groningen, PO Box 196, 9700 AD Groningen, The Netherlands

2 Department of Sociology and Interuniversity Center for Social Science Theory and Methodology (ICS), University of Groningen, Grote Rozenstraat 31, 9712 TG Groningen, The Netherlands

3 Department of Psychiatry, University Medical Center Groningen, University of Groningen, PO Box 30001, 9700 RB Groningen, The Netherlands

4 Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Erasmus Medical Center, PO Box 2060, 3000 CB Rotterdam, The Netherlands

5 Department of Health Sciences, University Medical Center Groningen, University of Groningen, PO Box 196, 9700 AD Groningen, The Netherlands

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BMC Public Health 2011, 11:440  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-440

Published: 6 June 2011

Abstract

Background

Data regarding the impact of early risk factors on later involvement in bullying are scarce. We investigated the impact of preschool behaviors, family characteristics (socio-economic status, family breakup) and parental mental health on bullying and victimization at age 11 (T1) and age 13.5 (T2).

Methods

longitudinal data from a subsample of the TRacking Adolescents' Individual Lives Survey (TRAILS) (T1: N = 982; T2: N = 977). TRAILS is a prospective study of adolescent mental health in a mixed urban and rural region of the Netherlands. At T1 parents reported on family characteristics, parental mental health and retrospectively on children's preschool behavior at age 4-5. Schoolmates reported involvement of adolescents in bullying or victimization at T1 and T2.

Results

Children with preschool anxiety were less likely to be bully/victim at T1. Children with preschool aggressiveness were more likely to be bully (T1), bully/victim (T1 and T2) and victim (T2) and children with good preschool motor functioning were more likely to be bully (T1) and less likely to be victim (T1 and T2). Children from low socioeconomic status families were more likely be to be bully, victim, or bully/victim and less likely to be uninvolved both at T1 and T2. Finally, children from intact two parent families were more likely to be uninvolved at T2.

Conclusion

Preschool behavioral, emotional and motor problems, socioeconomic status, and family breakup are related to involvement in bullying at a later age. Prevention of bullying and its consequences can be enhanced by focusing on risk groups in early life.

Keywords:
bullying; victimization; risk factors