A social network perspective on bullying

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Does knowledge about bullying improve if we know "who bullies whom"? Does it help to know which children in a classroom defend each other and who are friends? How do we investigate these multiple, complex relations between children in a statistically sound way? Taking a group perspective on bullying, Gijs Huitsing’s thesis provides answers using social network analysis on children’s relations in the broader context of the peer group. Children not actively involved as bullies and/or victims are not necessarily passive bystanders, but may be defenders instead. The network data for this dissertation stem from children in different age groups (5- to 12-year-olds) attending primary schools in Finland, the Netherlands, and Switzerland.
Several aspects of bullying processes were investigated; structural characteristics of negative tie networks (that is, specific relationship patterns), as well as the interplay between negative and positive networks. The analysis showed that victims sometimes defend each other, especially when being bullied by the same child(ren), whereas bullies may retaliate against their victims’ defenders. On the other hand it was found that bullies also defend each other, the more so when picking the same victims. The distinction between bullies, victims, and defenders appears to be blurred, possibly due to children’s involvement in multiple and changing relations. Similar results were found in the analysis of a sample of a young age group, where children and teachers tend to agree on who are the bullies and who are the victims, while they sometimes have quite different views on who bullies whom.
Translated title of the contributionEen sociaal netwerkperspectief op pesten
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • University of Groningen
  • Veenstra, René, Supervisor
  • Snijders, Tom, Supervisor
  • van Duijn, Marijtje, Co-supervisor
Award date4-Dec-2014
Place of Publication[Groningen]
Print ISBNs978-90-5335-947-1
Electronic ISBNs978-90-5335-948-8
Publication statusPublished - 2014


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