Psychology 4420F-001

Bullying and Victimization

If there is a discrepancy between the outline posted below and the outline posted on the OWL course website, the latter shall prevail.


This course involves critical evaluation of research and theory on physical, social, and cyber bullying and victimization in childhood and adolescence. We examine physiological, psychological, and social risk factors for bullying and victimization, social processes that maintain bully-victim relationships, psychological consequences of victimization, and current prevention and intervention efforts.

Antirequisites: Psychology 4490F if taken in 2008-09, 2010-11 or 2012-13.

Antirequisites are courses that overlap sufficiently in content that only one can be taken for credit.  If you take a course that is an antirequisite to a course previously taken, you will lose credit for the earlier course, regardless of the grade achieved in the most recent course.

Prerequisites: Psychology 2820E, or both of Psychology 2800E and 2810, plus registration in third or fourth year Honors Specialization in Psychology or Honors Specialization in Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience.

Other Psychology students and Psychology Special Students who receive 75% in the prerequisite courses may enroll in this course.

3 seminar hours, 0.5 course

Unless you have either the requisites for this course or written special permission from your Dean to enroll in it, you may be removed from this course and it will be deleted from your record.  This decision may not be appealed.  You will receive no adjustment to your fees in the event that you are dropped from a course for failing to have the necessary prerequisites.


Instructor:  Lynne Zarbatany      

Office and Phone Number: Westminster Hall (WH) 322, (519) 661-3664

Office Hours: By appointment       


Time and Location of Lectures: Wed, 12:30-3:30, WH 36

If you or someone you know is experiencing distress, there are several resources here at Western to assist you.  Please visit: for more information on these resources and on mental health.

Please contact the course instructor if you require material in an alternate format or if you require any other arrangements to make this course more accessible to you. You may also wish to contact Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) at 519-661-2111 ext 82147 for any specific question regarding an accommodation.


A course pack of readings for this course is available for purchase at the bookstore. Readings also are available on the course website.


The primary purpose of this course is to critically evaluate research and theory on physical, social/relational, and cyber bullying and victimization in childhood and adolescence. We will examine social, psychological, and physical factors that predispose children to become bullies and victims, group social processes that help to maintain bully-victim relationships, and physiological, social and psychological consequences of persistent victimization. We also will assess the success rate of evidenced-based and non-evidence based intervention and prevention strategies being employed to address face-to-face and cyber bullying. Students will practice and refine several scholarly skills, including critical thinking, research design, writing, oral presentation, and scholarly discussion.



By the end of this course, successful students will be able to


  • Critically evaluate current research on social and psychological antecedents, processes, and sequelae of bullying and victimization in childhood and adolescence (assessed by contributions to weekly class discussions, discussion leading, and research proposal).
  • Differentiate and evaluate evidence-based and non-evidence-based bullying interventions (assessed by contributions to weekly class discussions, brief report presentations and papers).
  • Identify limitations on interpretation of findings imposed by research designs and methods (assessed by contributions to weekly class discussions, discussion leading, and research proposal).
  • Identify and analyze a conceptual or methodological problem in the field, and propose improvements based on extant research, theory and/or methods (assessed by discussion leading and paper; research proposal presentation and paper).
  • Generate a hypothesis that addresses an important knowledge gap in the field of bullying and victimization based on a thorough assessment and synthesize of existing literature. Apply knowledge of research design, methods, and data analysis to design a study to test the hypothesis (assessed by research proposal paper and presentation).
  • Orally present prepared material in a formal academic settings using visual aids, and make in-the-moment contributions to scholarly discourse (assessed by participation in class discussion, class discussion leading, and presentation of brief report and research proposal).
  • Demonstrate courage to use their scholarly voice in a public setting (assessed by participation in class discussion, class discussion leading, and presentation of brief report and research proposal).
  • Write papers demonstrating correct use of the English language and adherence to discipline-specific (APA) writing requirements (assessed by written brief report, discussion questions, and research proposal).


Class Participation (20%)


Each week we will meet to share our opinions, impressions, and critical evaluations of the readings. To facilitate discussion, class participation will count for 20 percent of your final mark. Your participation mark will be based on attendance, quantity, and (especially) quality of your contributions to the intellectual activity of the class. Your classmates’ discussion question(s) will be circulated at least two days prior to class each week, and you should formulate a response based on your own interpretation of the readings prior to class. To do this effectively, you must read the material prior to class. You also may bring other discussion topics to class each week to ensure you have an opportunity to speak (this is especially important for shy members of the group). After each class, I will give you a score from 0 to 4 using the following scale: 0 = absent, 1 = present but silent, 2 = minimal participation, 3 = moderate participation, 4 = made an important substantive contribution to the scholarly discourse. I use fractions as well as whole numbers). Weekly ratings will be averaged at the end of term to form the participation mark. You may email me at any time during the semester to obtain your interim participation mark.

Discussion Questions (15%)

You will prepare one or two (max) discussion questions and lead a 30-min class discussion based on one week’s readings (date to be assigned). You also will submit a 2-3 page (maximum) double-spaced typed write-up of the questions and your answers to them. Questions should stimulate critical evaluation of KEY theoretical-conceptual and/or empirical issues or problems in the week’s readings. In your paper, you must articulate your question(s), justify their importance, and offer thoughtful scholarly answers. You might consider the following while conceptualizing your discussion questions: What were the most important contribution(s) of the paper? What are your major criticisms? What do you still find incomprehensible or problematic for the research area? Do you see any connections with other papers from this or other courses (students often do additional reading to formulate answers to their questions)? Do the authors solve problems unresolved in papers we’ve read previously? Do the authors fail to take into account important ideas or findings put forward by others? If major theoretical or empirical problems remain unresolved, what type of study could help to resolve them? (I would smile upon efforts to generate new research ideas to resolve old problems J). Your questions are meant to stimulate critical thinking in your classmates about ideas, theories, and/or empirical strategies and findings. I will evaluate discussion questions for quality of (a) questions raised; (b) written answers to the questions, and (c) writing style. Marks for the discussion questions will form 15 percent of the final grade.



  1. I will circulate discussion questions to the class on Monday mornings. Consequently, you must send me your discussion question(s) no later than 1:00 pm on the Sunday preceding your discussion session. Along with your question(s), you must submit an outline of your answer(s) so I can assess whether or not the topic is likely to generate productive discussion, and whether or not you are on the right track to answer your own question(s). We may need to correspondence before your questions are finalized, so if you are not available on Sunday afternoon to discuss any necessary changes to your questions, then you must submit your questions to me earlier. Papers containing discussion questions and completed answers must be emailed to me before class on the day of the discussion (
  1. A good discussion paper does not involve simply summarizing the reading(s). You may begin with a quick summary and then quickly move on to your critical analysis.
  1. Please organized your discussion paper so that the question appears before the answer (single-spaced), and the answer is double-spaced. Be sure to develop your answer in sufficient detail so that I have a good sense of your meaning and direction. If you can’t answer your questions adequately in the space provided, then pose fewer questions.[You may raise more questions in the discussion with classmates than you answer in your paper].
  1. Include a reference list if you use outside readings to answer your question.
  1. See course website for pointers on effective discussion leading (under Resources).


General Notes Regarding Paper Submissions


  1. Check your writing for grammatical and spelling errors as these can lower your paper marks.
  1. When naming documents that you submit to me, your own name should come first, and then the document name. Your name also should be on the first page of each document.

First Report: Bullying and Victimization in Everyday Life (15%)

As an introduction to the topic of bullying and victimization, you will produce a brief report on one of the following topics (a) a case study of a school shooting or “bullycide” (suicide motivated by bullying), (b) a review of children’s books devoted to bullying, (c) a description of an anti-bullying prevention or intervention program currently in use by a school board within Canada,  or (d) a description of a particularly useful anti-bullying website (no more than 4 students may choose this option). Requirements of the report will depend on the topic you choose (see below), but you may use research material from newspaper archives, the internet and libraries as appropriate. You will present your report within the first 5 weeks of the term for a maximum of 10 minutes plus a 5-minute question/discuss period. The written version of the report should be no longer than 2-3 double-spaced pages) and must be emailed to me before class on the date of your presentation. I will grade your report for quality of analysis and writing. Marks for this report will form 15 percent of the final grade. To avoid repeats, please register your topic with me as soon as possible.

  1. Case study: School shooting or “bullycide.” Tell us what happened. Who were the victims/perpetrators? What was the victims’ experience of bullying prior to the shootings or suicide? What was the response of the school/school board? Did the event prompt any policy changes in the school (or beyond) regarding bullying/victimization? For helpful references on this topic, see:

      Leary, M., Kowalski, R. M., Smith, L., & Phillips, S. (2003). Teasing, rejection, and violence: Case studies of school shootings. Aggressive Behavior, 29, 202-214.


            Langman, P. (2009). Rampage school shooters: A typology. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 14, 79-86.


  1. Review children’s books about bullying (I have a few you can borrow; other possibilities are listed here Read these, summarize the stories briefly, identify the advice being given (e.g., ignore the bully; tell the teacher) and determine if there is any evidence in the literature that these strategies are effective.


  1. Report on anti-bullying programs in the schools.  Choose a school board anywhere in Canada and report on measures currently being taken to reduce bullying, harassment, and victimization in schools. The report should include a description of the curriculum content, the exercises and activities included (if any) to reduce bullying, length of program, ages at which program is aimed, socialization mechanisms used to foster anti-bullying behavior (e.g., rewards, sanctions), and any other pertinent information. You should indicate whether or not the program’s effectiveness has been demonstrated based on experimental or quasi-experimental research.


  1. Report on an anti-bullying website. Many websites (e.g.,, have been developed to provide information about bullying and victimization to children, parents, and educators, and strategies for dealing with these problems. Have a look at a few of these websites, and then pick your favorite one, describe it, and tell us why you think it is particularly useful. Are the recommendations evidence-based? Note: No more than one person per week may select this option.


Research Proposal Paper (30%) and Presentation (20%)


For your major assignment, you will prepare and present a (10-12 page) research proposal that aims to further our understanding of the causes, consequences, or cures for bullying and/or victimization, or the group processes by which these maladaptive relationships are maintained. The introduction should summarize the state of current knowledge regarding the focal problem, identify a knowledge gap and provide justification for filling this gap (i.e., it should be clear why filling this gap is theoretically important), briefly describe the research plan, and articulate a set of hypotheses. The method section should include a description of the proposed research population, research design, measures, and procedures. In a separate section, you should describe the statistical analyses you will use to describe your data and test your hypotheses. Given that these are proposals and not actual projects, you are free to develop a research strategy that maximizes your ability to address your research question in a convincing manner (e.g., experimental or longitudinal approaches). At least two weeks before your presentation, you must send me a one-page description of your research question and why it is important. I will sign off on your topic or request revisions, and will send references if I know of any that are pertinent to your research question.


You must meet with me to go over your slides prior to your presentation. Because this process often results in changes to the slides, you should allow ample time to make revisions. Consequently, you should book a meeting with me at least several days prior to your presentation, and at minimum two days ahead. You must email me your final slides before your presentation.  I will print these and use them for note-taking during your presentation.


Presentations of research proposals should be no longer than 20 minutes plus a 10-minute discussion period. I will judge presentations for style and primarily content; your presentation will be worth 20 percent of your final grade.  See presentation hints on course website.


Feedback on the presentation should be taken into account during preparation of the paper. You must email your research proposal paper to me by 5 pm on Dec. 8 (or 9 am on Dec. 11 for students presenting on Dec. 6); the paper will be worth 30 percent of your final grade.  I will judge the paper for style (i.e., writing proficiency) and content. 


Written research proposals must contain a title page, abstract, and introduction, method, proposed analysis, and reference sections. You do not need to include DOIs in your reference sections. The paper must be no longer than 12 double-spaced -pages, excluding title page, abstract, and references.


Penalty for Late Papers

All papers are due at the times indicated above. Late papers will receive a penalty of 3% per day out of 100%.


Possible Research Proposal Topic Themes


Risk Factors for Bullying (physical or social bullying)


-includes child-related (e.g., neurological/hormonal, social-cognitive, empathy, self-regulation, callous-unemotional traits, moral disengagement, theory of mind, social power/popularity, dominance-seeking; sexuality), family, peer, school, classroom (e.g., teacher attitudes and roles) in the bully-victim cycle, or other environmental contributors.


Risk Factors for Bullying and/or Victimization


-includes physical and psychosocial risk factors (self esteem, internalizing problems, social inhibition)

-includes special populations such as children with disabilities or special needs

- LGBTQ children and adolescents

-racial or ethnic minority bullying


Person By Environment Models of Bullying or Victimization


(i.e., how do person charactistics interact with environmental characteristics to make bullying or victimization more or less likely?)


Developmental Changes in Rates and Forms of Bullying (and why?)


Trajectories of Bullying and Victimization


Some children begin school as bullies or victims but move out of these roles over time, others remain in their roles throughout their school experiences, still others begin as non-bullies or victims and move into these roles over time. What social, psychological, and contextual factors might explain these different developmental trajectories?


Bullying-Victimization as a Dyadic or Group Process


Relationship context of bullying, victimization, defending. Who bullies whom, and who defends whom?


Bystanders and Defenders


Most children don’t like bullies and bullying, but nevertheless won’t stand up for victimized children. Some children do. What are the characteristics and qualities of bystanders and defenders, and how can more bystanders be encouraged to defend?


Cyber Bullying


Bullying in Adolescent Romantic Relationships


Bullying in Sibling Relationships


Cross-Cultural Comparison of Bullying: Are Patterns Universal or Do Some Cultures Promote Bullying More Than Others?


Relationship-Related Protective and Risk Factors in Bullying/Victimization

-friends, siblings


Psychological, Social, Physiological Adjustment of Victims or Bullies


Prevention or Intervention Programs

-school, home, community, or cyber based. [If you choose this topic, see our intervention readings for examples of excellent program evaluation studies that you can use as models].


If bullying is an evolutionary adaptation, how can environments be changed to facilitate goal

attainment without harming others?
Summary of Course Requirements


Requirement                                      Percent of Final Mark


  1. Class participation                                   20
  2. Discussion Questions                               15

  1. First Report                                             15
  2. Research Proposal Presentation                20
  3. Research Proposal Paper                         30


Note:  Because this is an essay course, as per Senate Regulations ( you must pass the essay component to pass the course. That is, the average mark for your written assignments must be at least 50%.

Although the Psychology Department does not require instructors to adjust their course grades to conform to specific targets, the expectation is that course marks will be distributed around the following averages:

70%     1000-level and 2000-level courses
72%     2190-2990 level courses
75%     3000-level courses
80%     4000-level courses
The Psychology Department follows Western's grading guidelines, which are as follows (see ):

A+  90-100      One could scarcely expect better from a student at this level
A    80-89        Superior work that is clearly above average
B    70-79        Good work, meeting all requirements, and eminently satisfactory
C    60-69        Competent work, meeting requirements
D    50-59        Fair work, minimally acceptable
F    below 50    Fail


There are no examinations in this course.


Sept. 13           Organizational Meeting (bring your calendar because we will be assigning presentation dates today).


Guest Speaker: Karen Sebbin, York Region Anti-Bullying Coalition


Sept. 20           Overview and Definitional Issues

Olweus, D. (2001). Peer harassment: A critical analysis and some important issues. In J. Juvonen & S. Graham (Eds.), Peer harassment in school: The plight of the vulnerable and victimized (pp. 3-20). New York: Guilford.

NOTE: The section on “Glimpses from the North American Tradition” (pp. 7-10) is now obsolete; no one treats victimization and peer rejection as the same phenomena.

Griffin, R. S., & Gross, A. M. (2004). Childhood bullying: Current empirical findings and future directions for research. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 9, 379-400.

Smith, P. K. (2004). Bullying: Recent developments. Child and Adolescent Mental Health, 9, 98-103.


Sept. 27           Characteristics of Bullies and Victims


Veenstra, R., Lindenberg, S., Oldehinkel, A. J., De Winter, A. F., Verhulst, F. C., & Ormel, J. (2005). Bullying and victimization in elementary schools: A comparison of bullies, victims, bully/victims and uninvolved preadolescents. Developmental Psychology, 41, 672-682.

Pepler, D., Jiang, D., Craig, W., & Connolly, J. (2008). Developmental trajectories of bullying and associated factors. Child Development, 79, 325-338.


Oct. 4              Causes (?) and Consequences? of Bullying and Victimization


Shields, A., & Cicchetti, D. (2001). Parental maltreatment and emotion dysregulation as risk factors for bullying and victimization in middle childhood. Journal of Clinical Child Psychology, 30, 349-363.


Hanish, L. D., Eisenberg, N., Fabes, R. A., Spinrad, T. L., Ryan, P., & Schmidt, S. (2004).

The expression and regulation of emotions: Risk factors for young children’s peer victimization. Development and Psychopathology, 16, 335-353.

Wolke, D., Copeland, W. E., Angold, A., & Costello, E. J. (2013). Impact of bullying in childhood on adult health, wealth, crime, and social outcomes. Psychological Science, 24, 1958–1970.

Oct. 11                        Fall Reading Week. No Class.


Oct. 18                        Consequences of Victimization, cont’d


Ouellet-Morin, I., Wong, C. C. Y., Danese, A., Pariante, C. M., Papadopoulos, A. S., Mill, J., & Arseneault, L. (2012). Increased serotonin transporter gene (SERT) DNA methylation is associated with bullying victimization and blunted cortisol response to stress in childhood: A longitudinal study of discordant monozygotic twins. Psychological Medicine (pp. 1-11). Epub ahead of print.

Snyder, J., Brooker, M., Patrick, M. R., Snyder, A., Schrepferman, L., & Stoolmiller, M. (2003). Observed peer victimization during early elementary school: Continuity, growth, and relation to risk for child antisocial and depressive behavior. Child Development, 74, 1881-1898.

Huitsing, G., Veenstra, R., Sainio, M., & Salmivalli, C. (2012). “It must be me” or “It could be them?”:  The impact of the social network position of bullies and victims on victims’ adjustment. Social Networks, 34, 379-386.


Oct. 25                        Cyber Bullying


Ybarra, M. L., & Mitchell, K. J. (2004).  Online aggressors/targets, aggressors, and targets: A comparison of associated youth characteristics. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 45, 1308-1316.

Slonje, R., Smith, P. K., & Frisen, A. (2013). The nature of cyberbullying, and strategies for prevention. Computers in Human Behavior, 29, 26–32.

Olweus, D. (2012). Cyberbullying: An overrated phenomenon? European Journal of Developmental Psychology, 9, 520–538.


Nov. 1             The Complexity Increases: Child and Environment Perspectives on Bullying and Victimization


Kochenderfer-Ladd, B., Ladd, G. W., & Kochel, K. P. (2008). A child and environment

framework for studying risk for peer victimization. In M. J. Harris (Ed.), Bullying, rejection, and peer victimization: A social cognitive neuroscience perspective (pp. 27-52). NY: Springer.


Ball, H. A., Arseneault, A. T., Maughan, B., Caspi, A., & Moffitt, T. E. (2008). Genetic and environmental influences on victims, bullies and bully-victims in childhood. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 49, 104-112.

Sugden, K., Arseneault, L., Harrington, H., Moffitt, T. E., Williams, B., & Caspi, A. (2010).

Serotonin transporter gene moderates the development of emotional problems among children following bullying victimization. Journal of the American Academy of Chld and Adolescent Psychiatry, 49, 830-840.


Nov. 8                         Group Dynamics of Bullying and Victimization

Vaillancourt, T., McDougall, P., Hymel, S., & Sunderani, S. (2010). Respect or fear? The relationship between power and bullying behavior. In S. R. Jimerson, S. M. Swearer, & D. L. Espelage (Eds.), Handbook of bullying in schools: An international perspective (pp. 211-222). NY: Routledge.

Volk, A. A., Camilleri, J. A., Dane, A. V., & Marini, Z. A. (2012). Is adolescent bullying an evolutionary adaptation? Aggressive Behavior, 38, 222-238


Nov. 15                       Bullying, Victimization, and Other Relationships


Perry, D. G., Hodges, E. V. E., & Egan, S.K. (2001). Determinants of chronic victimization by peers: A review and new model of family influence. In J. Juvonen & S. Graham (Eds.), Peer harassment in school: The plight of the vulnerable and victimized (pp. 73-104). New York: Guilford. [Focus primarily on family influence model proposed by authors].

Wolke, D., & Skew, A. J. (2012). Bullying among siblings. International Journal of Adolescent Medicine and Health, 24, 17-25.           

Foshee, V. A., Reyes, H. L. M., Vivolo-Kantor, A. M., Basile, K. C., Chang, L.-Y., Faris, R., & Ennett, S. T. (2014). Bullying as a longitudinal predictor of adolescent dating violence. Journal of Adolescent Health, 55, 439-444.


Nov. 22           Intervention [Note: these papers are not in the course pack, but they are available through the course website].


Frey, K. S., Hirschstein, M. K., Edstrom, L. V., & Snell, J. L. (2009). Observed reductions in school bullying, nonbullying aggression, and destructive bystander behavior: A longitudinal evaluation. Journal of Educational Psychology, 101, 466-481.

Kärnä, A., Voeten, M., Little, T. D., Alanen, E., Poskiparta, E., & Salmivalli, C. (2013).

Effectiveness of the KiVa Antibullying Program: Grades 1–3 and 7–9. Journal of Educational Psychology, 105, 535–551.


Nov. 29                       Prevention

Howard, K. A., Flora, J., & Griffin, M. (1999). Violence prevention programs in schools: State of the science and implications for future research. Applied & Preventative Psychology, 8, 197-215.

Craig, W. M., Pepler, D. J., Murphy, A., & McCuaig-Edge, H. (2010). What works in bullying prevention? In E. M. Vernberg & B. K. Biggs (Eds.), Preventing and treating bullying and victimization (pp. 215-241). NY: Oxford University Press


Dec. 6              Class Presentations

Dec. 8              Your final paper must be submitted to Turnitin AND emailed to me no later than 5 pm on Dec. 8, except for students who present on Dec. 6.  The latter group must submit papers no later than 9 AM on Dec. 11.


Students are responsible for understanding the nature and avoiding the occurrence of plagiarism and other scholastic offenses. Plagiarism and cheating are considered very serious offenses because they undermine the integrity of research and education. Actions constituting a scholastic offense are described at the following link:

As of Sept. 1, 2009, the Department of Psychology will take the following steps to detect scholastic offenses. All multiple-choice tests and exams will be checked for similarities in the pattern of responses using reliable software, and records will be made of student seating locations in all tests and exams. All written assignments will be submitted to TurnItIn, a service designed to detect and deter plagiarism by comparing written material to over 5 billion pages of content located on the Internet or in TurnItIn’s databases. All papers submitted for such checking will be included as source documents in the reference database for the purpose of detecting plagiarism of papers subsequently submitted to the system. Use of the service is subject to the licensing agreement, currently between Western and

Possible penalties for a scholastic offense include failure of the assignment, failure of the course, suspension from the University, and expulsion from the University.


Western’s policy on Accommodation for Medical Illness can be found at: 

Students must see the Academic Counsellor and submit all required documentation in order to be approved for certain accommodation:


Office of the Registrar web site:

Student Development Services web site:

Please see the Psychology Undergraduate web site for information on the following:

- Policy on Cheating and Academic Misconduct
- Procedures for Appealing Academic Evaluations
- Policy on Attendance
- Policy Regarding Makeup Exams and Extensions of Deadlines
- Policy for Assignments
- Short Absences
- Extended Absences
- Documentation
- Academic Concerns
- 2017 Calendar References

No electronic devices, including cell phones and smart watches, will be allowed during exams.