Bullying as strategic behavior: Relations with desired and acquired dominance in the peer group

T. Olthof, F.A. Goossens, M.M. Vermande, E.A. Aleva, M.M. van der Meulen

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


To examine whether bullying is strategic behavior aimed at obtaining or maintaining social dominance, 1129 9- to 12-year-old Dutch children were classified in terms of their role in bullying and in terms of their use of dominance oriented coercive and prosocial social strategies. Multi-informant measures of participants' acquired and desired social dominance were also included. Unlike non-bullying children, children contributing to bullying often were bistrategics in that they used both coercive and prosocial strategies and they also were socially dominant. Ringleader bullies also expressed a higher desire to be dominant. Among non-bullying children, those who tended to help victims were relatively socially dominant but victims and outsiders were not. Generally, the data supported the claim that bullying is dominance-oriented strategic behavior, which suggests that intervention strategies are more likely to be successful when they take the functional aspects of bullying behavior into account. © 2011 Society for the Study of School Psychology.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)339-359
JournalJournal of School Psychology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2011


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