Different Participation Roles

Research shows that there three types of rejected or unpopular adolescents who are very likely to be involved in bullying behavior. First type is adolescents who are overly aggressive:” likely to get into fights, get involved in antisocial activities”, and are often involved in bullying; second- withdrawn or “exceedingly shy, timid, and inhibited”, and are more likely to be victims; third- aggressive- withdrawn- “have trouble controlling their hostility”, but they are also shy and “nervous about initiating friendships”. The latter are likely to be bully-victims. Other students- bystanders can also choose to be victim-defenders, bully-reinforcers and/or assistants, and outsiders.

Victims or the unpopular withdrawn children are excessively anxious, lack social skills needed to initiate new contacts or break into a group activity. Their lack of confidence and hesitancy combined with submissiveness make them perfect targets for bullying. Some of the most common reasons for bullying include low socioeconomic status, disability, or obesity. Research shows that in comparison with other adolescents victims often have worse problem solving strategies. They often score less than their bullies and defenders in the tests of moral competence and theory of mind . Moral Competence refers to the ability to use both the consequences and prior believes in determining how morally wrong or right or wrong are one’s actions. Victims seemed to focus primarily on the outcomes and not being as good in integrating the moral beliefs. They have difficulties in social skills, and social problem solving, as well as emotional regulation. And because of their lack of social competence, victims score low on peer acceptance and popularity. Victims are often overly sensitive to being rejected, which might originate in their relationships with parents.

Bullies, despite being quite morally competent, tend to engage in morally wrong behaviors because of several reasons, of which being lack moral compassion. In general, bullies seem to engage in a kind of cold cognition and have a good theory of mind. They also have an average to good social intelligence. These skills seem to be especially important in order to use relational aggression instrumentally—in order to achieve one’s social goals. As mentioned previously, male and female bullies usually score differently on sociometric measures. Male bullies often fall in the socially rejected category while female bullies tend to fall in the controversial category. They can be popular yet not liked.

Hostile Attributional Bias
Many unpopular aggressive kids seem to engage in hostile attributional bias when analyzing the actions of others: they are more likely to interpret other children’s behavior as hostile while it is not, which can further trigger their aggression.

Bully- victims are adolescents who have both experienced aggression directed to them and have themselves engaged in bullying. They often become be bully assistance or reinforcers. Seeing others victimized can serve as a buffer against some psychological problems, for which these adolescents are at risk (see Consequences of victimization for victims and bully-victims below). In comparison to all other groups, bully-victims are the worst off regarding their psychological adjustment and problems. They are least liked among the peers.

Although early research has mostly focused on victims and bullies, more and more attention has been given to the roles of other students, or bystanders: bully-reinforcer’s and assistants, victim-defenders, and outsiders.

Bully- reinforcers and assistants
Bully-reinforcers and assistants do not normally initiate aggressive actions themselves, but they support, reinforce, and/or assist the bully. They often have rather large friendship networks when compared to outsiders, victims, and their defenders. These individuals are similar to bullies in regards to their personal characteristics. Female bully- reinforcers and assistants usually score low on social acceptance and high on rejection by their peers while male bully assistants have average scores on both and bully- reinforcers are often quite popular among their peers. The characteristic that is common among all these individuals across both genders is low level of empathy.

Victim-defenders are individuals who stand up for the victim. They are usually popular among their peers, although occasionally rejected and victimized adolescents take on the defender’s role. Defenders like to befriend other defenders and usually belong to the smallest social network of all other previously mentioned groups. In general, such behavior is not particularly common. Defenders have both advanced moral competence and high level of compassion. They also score high on the theory of mind tests. They are usually very morally engaged, have a high sense of responsibility, and self-efficacy. They are also good at emotion regulation.

Outsiders are adolescents who like to stay away from conflict situations. They usually befriend other outsiders. Both male and female outsiders usually score below average on both social acceptance and rejection by their peers. In general, whether and adolescent will choose to be a defender or an outsider in a particular situation is best predicted by their relationship to the victim and/or bully. Occasionally, adolescents will feel more comfortable to intervene if they are friends with the offender. However, in general they will take the side of the bully or victim based on who they know better. And bullies are more likely to be friends with other bullies, as well as their reinforcers, and assistants, while victims befriend other victims.