Understanding the Ecological Factors Associated with Bullying

pupil being bullied in elementary school

In their transition to middle school, youth becomes exposed to a new, unfamiliar and larger school environment, which made them more vulnerable to bullying. Still, little is known about the social-environmental factors that are associated with bullying during this transition. This study was conducted to fill this research gap.

This study examines socio-demographic characteristics and social-environmental factors associated with bullying during the elementary to middle school transition from a sample of 5th-grade students (n = 300) in 3 elementary schools at Time 1. Of these, 237 participated at Time 2 as 6th-grade students. Using cluster analyses, we found groups of students who reported no increase in bullying, some decrease in bullying, and some increase in bullying. Students who reported increases in bullying also reported decreases in school belongingness and teacher affiliation and increases in teacher dissatisfaction. Students who reported decreases in bullying also reported decreases in victimization. These findings suggest that changes across the transition in students’ relations to school and their teachers are predictive of changes in bullying.


Espelage, D. L., Hong, J. S., Rao, M., & Thornberg, R. (2015). Understanding ecological factors associated with bullying across the elementary to middle school transition in the United States. Violence & Victims, 30, 470-487.


Associated researchers

Dorothy L Espelage


  • The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Mrinalini A Rao

Ph.D., Postdoc.

  • Yale University, Center for Emotional Intelligence