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

J Sch Psychol. 2011 Jun;49(3):339-59. doi: 10.1016/j.jsp.2011.03.003. Epub 2011 Apr 16.


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.

MeSH terms

  • Bullying / psychology*
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Male
  • Motivation*
  • Peer Group*
  • Schools
  • Social Dominance*
  • Social Environment
  • Students