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Bullying, Sexual, and Dating Violence Trajectories From Early to Late Adolescence

NCJ Number
Date Published
Dorothy L. Espelage Ph.D, Sabina K. Low Ph.D., Carolyn Anderson Ph.D., Lisa De La Ru M.A.
This longitudinal study of a large sample of early adolescents examined the impact of family abuse and conflict, self-reported delinquency, and peer delinquency on the behaviors of bullying, sexual harassment, and/or dating violence in the high school years.
Consistent with the proposed theoretical model, family conflict, sibling aggression, and having delinquent friends were significant predictors of bullying behavior during middle school for girls. In high school bullying behavior by girls predicted the perpetration of sexual harassment/violence; verbal emotional abuse; and dating violence, including sexual coercive behavior. Consistent with the proposed model, sibling aggression predicted bullying behavior for boys. Unlike girls, however, family conflict did not predict bullying or delinquent behavior. In contrast to the girls, sibling aggression and self-reported delinquency predicted sexually coercive dating, violent behavior, and verbal emotional abuse among boys. For boys, bullying behavior also predicted sexual harassment/violence, verbal emotional abuse, and physical violence in dating relationships. These findings suggest that interventions to counter the antisocial and delinquent behaviors identified should focus on family violence and conflict, with attention to learning healthy relationships and conflict-management skills. Prevention efforts should take into account the developmental timing of aggression and violence. Since bullying declines in high school, it may be necessary to shift the focus to aggression and violence in dating relationships. Further research should be conducted on sexual coercion in dating relationships in high school. Quantitative self-report survey data were collected from 1,162 high school students who were part of the University of Illinois Study of Bullying and Sexual Violence Study. Participants included in the results presented were from four Midwestern middle schools (grades five-seven, three cohorts), who were followed up at three high schools. The sample was 49 percent female, 58 percent Black, and 26 percent White. 11 tables, 6 figures, and 85 references
Date Created: June 9, 2014