This study refers to two traditions as the ‘bully/victim’ and the ‘general victimization’ approaches. Although the terms ‘bullying’ and ‘victimization’ are used interchangeably, it is argued that these constructs were derived from approaches that differ in terms of conceptual definitions of negative peer treatment, research methodologies, and relative interest in group-versus individual-level phenomena. Surprisingly, few attempts have been made to integrate research findings across these approaches. Therefore, the present study seeks to increase our understanding of children’s experiences of negative peer treatment by systematically comparing the two dominant approaches to the study of this phenomenon.
Participants were 217 children (97 boys and 120 girls) who attended two different Gymnasia located in Munich, Germany. All children were in the sixth grade (approximate age = 11 years).
In summary, the results of this study contribute to the existing literature in this area by replicating findings on relational victimization in a German sample, and by illustrating both the relatedness and the distinctiveness of victimization constructs derived from the two current approaches to the study of negative peer treatment. Because prior studies have typically operated from either the bully/victim or the general victimization approach, one could only speculate about the relations among different victimization constructs. Research findings suggest that, although there is a moderate degree of overlap among the constructs measured here, continued attention needs to be paid to gender differences in children’s experiences of negative peer treatment, as well as to the unique impact of different forms of negative peer treatment on children’s adjustment. Further research is still needed to better distinguish the unique effects of collective aggression towards a victim from non-collective forms of peer maltreatment.