The Protective Behaviors of Student Victims: Responses to Direct and Indirect Bullying

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Most research on school bullying has focused on its prevalence, characteristics of bullies and victims, and programmatic responses undertaken by schools to prevent or reduce bullying. Few studies have investigated victims' responses to bullying at school. While the public, national media, and recent studies implicate bullying as a factor in cases of school violence, little research to date examines the self-protective behaviors of bullying victims. This raises the question; do victims of bullying take measures to protect themselves, despite the fact that these measures may endanger other students at school or school climate? Are they more likely to adopt these behaviors when they perceive that their school is not a capable guardian from such victimization? And finally, do their choices of protective behaviors vary by the type of bullying they endure? The purpose of this dissertation is to examine self-protective behaviors exhibited by victims bullying. Findings indicate that student victims of bullying were more likely than non-bullied students to adopt self-protective behaviors that further endanger school safety and school climate. Specifically, controlling for relevant student and school characteristics, bullied students were three times more likely to carry a weapon to school, to engage in fighting behaviors, and to avoid certain places at school, and were six times more likely to be truant from a school activity. No support for an interaction between measures of school guardianship and student protective behaviors was found, meaning that student perceptions of school security or rule enforcement did not play a role in bullied students' decisions to engage in avoidance, truancy, weapon carrying, or fighting. In addition, the adoption of these behaviors did not differ by the type of bullying, direct or indirect, endured by the victim. Theoretical and policy implications are discussed.