U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Responses to bullying among high-school students through the lens of general strain theory

NCJ Number
Sociological Spectrum Dated: 2020
Date Published

In examining when youth respond to bullying antisocially versus asocially or prosocially, this study  examined situation-based negative emotions; the availability of alternative relationships; and behavioral responses to physical, verbal, relational, and cyber bullying. 


In General Strain Theory (GST), Agnew asserts that negative emotions in response to strains are associated with antisocial behavior. Researchers have determined that GST explains criminal and self-harm responses to bullying; however, not all youth respond antisocially, such as by harming the self or others. The current study integrated research from sociology, criminology, health, and social psychology to address this question among a sample of high-school bully victims. The study found variation in the emotional and behavioral responses based on the type of bullying; however, across bullying types, the availability of alternative relationships was associated with increased prosocial responding.  (publisher abstract modified)

Date Published: January 1, 2020