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Previous research finds that low achievers and students from lower socioeconomic status backgrounds are more likely to bully peers, but fails to satisfactorily explain why. This paper tests the hypothesis that feelings of insecurity mediate the relationship between family background and low achievement, as predictors, and self-perception of being a bully, as the outcome. It operationalizes feelings of insecurity as self-esteem and academic-status insecurity. Using a large and diverse dataset of survey responses from secondary school males in the U.S. (N = 7,291, 45% White, 30% Black, 25% Latino from 6th-12th grade), the paper applies multi-level mediation analyses to test the hypothesis separately for Blacks, Whites, and Latinos. For all three groups, the insecurity measures account for virtually all of the relationship between a grade point average and self-perception of being a bully, and about a third of the relationship between family background and the same bullying measure. Implications are discussed.


Dietrich, Lars, and Ronald Ferguson. "Why Stigmatized Adolescents Bully More: The Role of Self-Esteem and Academic-Status Insecurity." International Journal of Adolescence and Youth 25.1 (January 2020): 305-318.