Deconstructing bullying roles: A longitudinal latent profile analysis of bullying participant behaviors for students in grades 4 through 12

Michelle K. Demaray, Christine K. Malecki, Ji Hoon Ryoo, Kelly H. Summers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


Bullying behavior is understood as a complex social phenomenon that includes many, and sometimes overlapping, bullying participant behaviors. The current study utilized latent profile analysis (LPA) at two time points approximately one year apart and examined what bullying participant behavior groups emerged based on students' reported levels of bullying, assisting, victimization, defending, and outsider behavior. Additionally, longitudinal latent profile analyses (LLPA) were utilized to examine potential changes in groups over time. Results suggested four groups found at two timepoints: (a) Uninvolved-Occasional Defending, with defending at a monthly rate and infrequent engagement in other behaviors; (b) Frequent Defending-Occasional Victimization, with monthly victimization and weekly defending behaviors; (c) Frequent Victimization-Occasional Broad Involvement, with weekly levels of victimization and monthly bullying, defending, and outsider behaviors; and (d) Frequent Broad Involvement, with weekly engagement in all of the bully participant behaviors (i.e., bullying, assisting, victimization, defending, and outsider behavior). The largest proportion of students (more than half) were in the Uninvolved-Occasional Defending group, which was also the most stable group over time. The smallest group (7%) was Frequent Broad Involvement, which was the least stable group over time, with students in this group typically moving to groups with at least occasional broad involvement of bullying participant behaviors. More male students than female students were in both broad involvement groups (i.e., Frequent Victimization-Occasional Broad Involvement; Frequent Broad Involvement) and more female students than male students, as well as more elementary students than secondary students, were in the Frequent Defending-Occasional Victimization group. The current study suggests that researchers should use caution when categorizing or conceptualizing simple bullying participant roles such as bully or victim, or even “bully-victim,” especially if the other bullying participant behaviors are not assessed. Practitioners should develop interventions that capitalize on the high proportions of students engaging in some level of defending and account for the complex social ecology that suggests that students are engaging in complex overlapping patterns of bullying participant behaviors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)32-48
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of School Psychology
Publication statusPublished - 2021 Jun

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Society for the Study of School Psychology

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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