Individual Protective Factors Associated With Bullying Victimization
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Bullying victimization is the most common type of violent victimization in high schools in the U.S. and may lead to psychological maladjustment and problematic behaviors in adolescence and in adulthood. Researchers have identified the characteristics of certain student populations as risk factors, such as being overweight, having sexual minority status, and being depressed. Most research has focused on protective factors that assist the bullied victim in coping with the trauma experienced, or it has focused on target hardening. What has been neglected is the role of individual protective factors that render the possible victim as a less attractive target, or a less “suitable target,” using the terminology of routine activity theory. National survey data were analyzed for identifying individual characteristics that alter the vulnerability of a victim to an offender, such as the use of weapons, fighting behavior, academic achievement, sleep patterns, and team sports participation. The main predictors of being overweight, having sexual minority status, or being depressed, along with weapon-carrying and fighting behavior, had the strongest, positive effects on bullying victimization. Increasing levels of sleep had negative effects on victimization, and it moderated the main effects of both sexual minority and heterosexual statuses, decreasing the risk of victimization. None of the other proposed moderators had significant effects. Policies that promote longer sleep duration and lessen sleep latency for adolescents may be beneficial in managing the risk of bullying victimization.