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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Use of Latent Analysis to Further Understand Bullying, Victimization, and Moral Disengagement

  • Author(s): Stein, Rachel
  • Advisor(s): Jimerson, Shane
  • et al.

Even though bullying is a well-established concern within schools, there is little consensus about how to intervene (Jimerson, Swearer, & Espelage, 2010). Prior to implementing intervention schools need to understand students role in bullying (e.g., bully, victim, bully-victim, defender, outsider) to appropriately target the behaviors taking place. Despite an empirical history measuring students’ roles within bullying (Espelage & Swearer, 2003; Salmivalli, 1996), as well as relevant correlates (e.g., gender, age), both the measurement and substantive implications of bullying participation have been debated. Some measurement methodologies (e.g., cut scores) used to create participation groups (Furlong, Sharkey, Felix, Tanigawa, & Greif Green, 2010; Swearer, Siebecker, Johnsen-Frerichs, & Wang, 2010) and have raised concerns about accurate group classification. To address concerns measuring bullying participation, the present study relied on latent class analysis. The findings show that bullying and victimization behaviors vary by degree of involvement (e.g., low, moderate, high). When bully and victim behaviors were considered in a simultaneous analysis, four classes emerged: outsiders, social-victims, victims, and bully-victims. Results suggest that most students who bully others also are victimized. The present study found that moral disengagement appears related to students’ degree of participation in bullying and victimization. Students who fell into the bully-victim class had the highest levels of moral disengagement, followed by students in the victim class, social-victim class, and outsider class. Thus, programs focused on increasing moral engagement (e.g., moral reasoning) may provide a fruitful direction for anti-bullying efforts. Gender was not found to impact class assignment for the types of bullying participation measured.

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