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Bullying Perpetration and Victimization as Predictors of Gun Violence Attitudes in a High-Risk, Diverse Sample

Fri, April 13, 4:15 to 5:15pm, Hilton, Second Floor, Marquette Ballroom


Gun violence is a major public health concern; positive attitudes toward weapon carrying and violence may be a marker of later gun violence. Research is needed to examine the risk factors of youth violence and victimization using longitudinal designs with high-risk samples (Grych & Swan, 2012; Institute of Medicine & National Research Council, 2013; Spano, 2012). Bullying perpetration, particularly in the context of early aggressive behavior and exposure to violence, may predict aggressive attitudes following a proactive aggression pathway (Crick & Dodge, 1996; Fite et al., 2007, 2008, 2008b; Vitaro et al., 1998), although this has rarely been assessed in relation to gun violence risk. Victimization by bullying is less clear as a predictor of gun violence risk. Hypervigilance and fearfulness may lead some away from delinquency, while others may use aggression for protective functions (Fite et al., 2007, 2008). The purpose of this study was to examine the extent to which bullying perpetration and victimization predicted positive attitudes toward guns and violence in a high-risk early adolescent sample after controlling for aggression in kindergarten, prenatal exposure to cocaine, and exposure to violence in early childhood.

The sample included 100 caregiver-child dyads recruited at birth from two urban hospitals; mothers were screened after delivery to identify participants who used cocaine during pregnancy and a control group (no cocaine use). Most mothers were single (60%) and received government assistance (71%). Data for the current study were collected when the child was in kindergarten and again in EA (Mage = 13.6 years, SD = .53; 57% female; 84% African American; 17% Latino). In kindergarten, mothers reported on child aggression using the Behavioral Assessment for Children (Reynolds & Kamphaus, 1992) and the child’s exposure to violence with the Survey of Exposure to Community Violence (Richters & Saltzman, 1990). In early adolescence, bullying victimization and perpetration were assessed with the California Bullying Victimization Scale (Felix et al., 2011; test-retest reliability .80 to .83). Adolescents also completed the Attitudes Toward Guns and Violence Questionnaire (Shapiro, 2000), a 26-item standardized measure ( = .77). There were complete data for 78 and 80 participants for the bullying perpetration and victimization models, respectively.

Linear regression analyses were conducted to predict attitudes towards guns and violence; covariates were entered in the first step, followed by bully or victim group in the second step. Overall, the bully group model was significant, accounting for 26% of the variance in attitudes towards guns and violence. Bullying perpetrators had more positive attitudes about guns and violence (see Table 1). The model for bullying victimization also accounted for 26% of the variance in child attitudes towards guns and violence, but victim group was not a significant predictor of child attitudes (see Table 2).

Results suggest that males, early childhood aggression, and bullying perpetrators are more likely to have positive attitudes toward guns and violence, supporting a proactive aggressive pathway. Victimization by bullying was not a significant predictor, and further research is needed to identify pathways, including mediating and moderating mechanisms, for gun violence risk.


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