Background: Data regarding the impact of early risk factors on later involvement in bullying are scarce. We investigated the impact of preschool behaviors, family characteristics (socio-economic status, family breakup) and parental mental health on bullying and victimization at age 11 (T1) and age 13.5 (T2).
Methods: longitudinal data from a subsample of the TRacking Adolescents' Individual Lives Survey (TRAILS) (T1: N = 982; T2: N = 977). TRAILS is a prospective study of adolescent mental health in a mixed urban and rural region of the Netherlands. At T1 parents reported on family characteristics, parental mental health and retrospectively on children's preschool behavior at age 4-5. Schoolmates reported involvement of adolescents in bullying or victimization at T1 and T2.
Results: Children with preschool anxiety were less likely to be bully/victim at T1. Children with preschool aggressiveness were more likely to be bully (T1), bully/victim (T1 and T2) and victim (T2) and children with good preschool motor functioning were more likely to be bully (T1) and less likely to be victim (T1 and T2). Children from low socioeconomic status families were more likely be to be bully, victim, or bully/victim and less likely to be uninvolved both at T1 and T2. Finally, children from intact two parent families were more likely to be uninvolved at T2.
Conclusion: Preschool behavioral, emotional and motor problems, socioeconomic status, and family breakup are related to involvement in bullying at a later age. Prevention of bullying and its consequences can be enhanced by focusing on risk groups in early life.