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Casey-Cannon, S., Gowen, K., & Hayward, C. (2001). Middle-school girls' reports of peer victimization: Concerns, consequences, and implications. Professional School Counseling, 5, 138+.

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Recent research regarding bullying suggests that bullying by peers is a common experience during adolescence (Cash, 1995; Crick & Grotpeter, 1996; Hoover, Oliver, & Hazier, 1992; Olweus, 1994). Most middle-school children report having experienced victimization, with attacks happening more frequently at school than elsewhere (Clarke & Kiselica, 1997). School counselors have an obligation to assess whether bullying is a problem for their students, to intervene appropriately, and to be proactive in preventing bullying behavior (Smith, 1991). As many as 81% of school-aged males and 72% of school-aged females report having been bullied, with younger children (ages 10 to 13) experiencing greater levels of victimizing behavior (Cash, 1995; Hazier et al., 1992). Crick and Grotpeter (1996) found that both boys and girls report similar levels of victimization; however, boys report significantly more overt victimization than do girls, and girls report significantly more relational victimization than do boys (Crick, Casas, & Ku, 1999; Crick & Grotpeter, 1995). One explanation for girls reporting higher levels of relational victimization may be the importance girls place on social relationships as compared to boys. Adolescent girls tend to be more relational and invest a tremendous amount of energy into social comparisons and peer acceptance (Gilligan, 1982; Harter, 1990; Steiner-Adair, 1986). The current study aimed to learn more about the experience of relational victimization in a sample of adolescent girls.

Method: Participants were drawn from a large sample of 7th grade girls in a school-based assessment of peer relationships, body image, and pubertal timing. The public school drew from a large area of predominantly lower to middle class families with a large representation of ethnic minority students. The Social Experience Questionnaire by Crick and Grotpeter (1996) was chosen as to address the hypothesis that relational victimization was more prevalent than overt victimization for this sample. It consists of three subscales that measure relational victimization, overt victimization, and prosocial attention. Responses are provided to questions about "how often" the adolescent experienced these behaviors using a 5-point Likert scale (1 = "Never"; 5 = "All the time"). Higher scores on the overt and relational victimization subscales reflected greater reported frequency of victimization. Higher scores on the prosocial support subscale reflected greater levels of peer support. Interviews of victimization experiences were also utilized; each girl was asked the following: “We are wondering if there's ever been a time when someone who was your age, or a little younger or a little older, has been really mean, nasty, or rude to you." An additional set of 12 open-ended questions assessed (a) details or characteristics of the event(s) (e.g., location, duration); (b) perceptions of the relationship with the perpetrator, including perceived reasons for the aggression; and (c) emotional and
behavioral coping responses.

Results: One year prior to the follow-up interviews, girls reported more relational victimization than overt victimization with many girls reporting a lack of prosocial treatment. Most common forms of relational victimization-being excluded from a peer group, having lies told about you, and being left out-included the above. Most common for overt victimization was being yelled at or called derogatory names. Results of the prosocial treatment scale indicate that several participants endorsed "never" or "a little" having "friends that make me happy" or "tell me they care." Girls indicated that victimization experiences occurred regularly. The vast majority indicated feeling sad, unhappy, hurt, or rejected as a reaction to peer victimization. A few girls noted that they cried as a result of the teasing, and others were scared to emotionally react for fear of more teasing. Some girls acknowledged that being bullied impacted the way they felt about themselves. Often these girls internalized the insults that were directed at them, even when they knew that the insult was not true or that the insult was intended to harm them in some way. Other girls indicated victimization reinforced negative feelings that they already had of themselves.

Discussion: Consistent with the literature, these results suggest that both relational and overt victimization is common for many girls and the details of the event and associated feelings remain
salient over time (Crick et al., 1999; Crick & Grotpeter, 1995; Hazler et al., 1992; Hoover et al., 1992). Overall, participants reported more verbal and relational aggression with less frequent reports of overt physical aggression (Crick & Grotpeter, 1996). Participant descriptions support the findings that victimization is hurtful and damaging (Hazier et al., 1992; Sharp, 1996). The fact that victimization was common yet few participants identified involving an adult speaks to the need for accessible resources and support for students feeling victimized. Based upon the literature, school counselors can serve as advocates for students and catalysts for improvement to policies regarding victimization assessment, intervention, and prevention (Clarke & Kiselica, 1997). Counselors can use their familiarity with students' experiences to work with teachers and administration to respond appropriately and structure classroom experiences that promote
kindness, cooperation, and communication (Olweus, 1993). Counselors can do assessment through observation, by taking notice of student interactions and being aware of students who may be marginalized by these behaviors. Counselors might also consider conducting a student survey and needs assessment; it might assess types of victimization and levels of distress related to these behaviors (Ray & Berg, 2000; Roberts & Coursol, 1996). Intervention efforts should include being supportive of the victim and responding in a consistent way to both victims and perpetrators. Roberts and Coursol (1996) reminded us that "victims must be heard and given a chance to tell their stories" (p. 208) so that supporting adults may understand fully the student's point of view. Counselors can support students in becoming better equipped in social interactions, more assertive in dealing with aggressive students, and better able to cope when problems do arise (Clarke & Kiselica, 1997; Roberts & Coursol, 1996). Clarke & Kiselica (1997) advocated that schools should establish codes of conduct that send a clear message that "no bullying will be tolerated, ever" (p. 318). Rules should include those that prohibit bullying and identify consequences for such behaviors (Clarke & Kiselica, 1997; Olweus, 1993). Nuttall and Kalesnik (1987) described a structured learning group and interpersonal problem-solving program that includes modeling, role playing, and student-to-student feedback around social skills. These programs have been found to be effective for reducing the frequency of aggressive and violent behaviors.