Costs and benefits of bullying in the context of the peer group: A three wave longitudinal analysis

A.H.A. Reijntjes, M.M. Vermande, F.A. Goossens, T. Olthof, R. Van de Schoot, A.E. Aleva, M. van der Meulen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Whereas previous research has shown that bullying in youth is predictive of a range of negative outcomes later in life, the more proximal consequences of bullying in the context of the peer group at school are not as clear. The present three-wave longitudinal study followed children (N = 394; 53 % girls; Mage = 10.3 at Time 1) from late childhood into early adolescence. Joint trajectory analyses were used to examine the dynamic prospective relations between bullying on the one hand, and indices tapping perceived popularity, peer-reported social acceptance, self-perceived social competence, and internalizing symptoms on the other. Results show that although young bullies may be on a developmental path that in the long run becomes problematic, from the bullies’ perspective in the shorter term personal advantages outweigh disadvantages. High bullying is highly positively related to high social status as indexed by perceived popularity. Although bullies are not very high in peer-rated social acceptance, most are not very low either. Moreover, bullies do not demonstrate elevated internalizing symptoms, or problems in the social domain as indexed by self-perceived social competence. As bullying yields clear personal benefits for the bullies without strong costs, the findings underscore the need for interventions targeting mechanisms that reward bullying.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1217-1229
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Abnormal Child Psychology
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • Bullying
  • Youth
  • Perceived popularity
  • Joint trajectory analysis
  • Peer acceptance
  • Internalizing symptoms
  • Self-perceived social competence


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