Bullying and Victimization

Gene-Environment Interactions

Peer Acceptance, Rejection, and Popularity

Prosocial and Antisocial Behavior

Social Network Analysis

Parent-Child Relationships

Romantic Relationships

Same- and Cross-Ethnic Friendships

Veenstra, R., Dijkstra, J.K., & Kreager, D.A. (2017). Pathways, networks, and norms: A sociological perspective on peer research. In W.M. Bukowski, B. Laursen, & K.H. Rubin (eds.) Handbook of peer interactions, relationships, and groups (2nd edition). New York: Guilford.
Sociological approaches to adolescent peer relationships emphasize that youth behavior develops in complex social environments and that, simultaneously, behavior feeds back to shape adolescents’ environments. In this chapter, we have drawn heavily from the life course perspective, social network research, and theories of social norms to highlight innovative ways that sociologists are pushing the boundaries of peer research. The life course approach to human development has spurred much recent sociological research on peer relationships and within-person social pathways and will continue to do so into the foreseeable future. Likewise, research on social networks has tested long held claims of peer influence, opportunities, and selection processes. Finally, the study of social norms has gained much traction in peer relation research, focusing our attention on group-level processes for creating and sustaining shared meanings that impact adolescent behavioral and social adjustment.
The central theme of the chapter, and more broadly of the sociological approach to peer relations, is that one must first recognize the within-person variability in, and interdependence of, lived experiences prior to connecting these to changes in behavior over time. Given this recognition, research in this area has utilized increasingly sophisticated methods (e.g., longitudinal and trajectory analyses, network analyses, and multi-cohort designs) to test associations between adolescent life events and behavioral change. These efforts have pointed to specific peer-based programs and interventions to reduce health-risk behaviors and improve the lives of adolescents.

KEY WORDS: life course perspective; peers; social pathways; social networks; social norms; pubertal timing; sexual and romantic Relationships; internalizing problems; externalizing problems; substance use; school behavior 

Veenstra, R., Lindenberg, S., Huitsing, G., Sainio, M., & Salmivalli, C. (2014). The role of teachers in bullying: The relation between antibullying attitudes, efficacy, and efforts to reduce bullying. Journal of Educational Psychology, 106, 1135-1143.
In order to battle bullying, it can be important for students to have teachers whom they see as taking an active stand against bullying in terms of propagating antibullying norms and having an efficacious approach to decreasing bullying. This expectation was tested with data from the control schools of the Finnish evaluation of the KiVa antibullying program. Multilevel analyses of data from 2,776 fourth- to sixth- graders showed that students’ perceptions of their teachers’ efficacy in decreasing bullying was related to a lower level of peer-reported bullying. Students’ perceptions of their teachers’ efforts to decrease bullying, however, was cross-sectionally related to a higher level of peer-reported bullying, but over time was related to a reduction in peer-reported bullying. In classes where teachers were not perceived as efficacious and had to exert a great deal of effort to reduce bullying, students with probullying attitudes and without antibullying effort had the highest level of bullying. The current findings show that teachers can play an important role in antibullying programs and should be seen as targets of intervention.

KEY WORDS: bullying, goal-framing, longitudinal, significant others, teachers 

Veenstra, R., Dijkstra, J.K., Steglich, C., & Van Zalk, M.H.W. (2013). Network-behavior dynamics. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 23, 399-412.
Researchers have become increasingly interested in disentangling selection and influence processes. This literature review provides context for the special issue on network-behavior dynamics. It brings together important conceptual, methodological, and empirical contributions focusing on longitudinal social network modeling. First, an overview of mechanisms underlying selection and influence is given. After a description of the shortcomings of previous studies in this area, the stochastic actor-based model is sketched; this is used in this special issue to examine network-behavior dynamics. The preconditions for such analyses are discussed, as are common model specification issues. Next, recent empirical advances in research on adolescence are discussed, focusing on new insights into moderating effects, initiation of behaviors, time heterogeneity, mediation effects, and negative ties.

KEY WORDS: peer relations, social networks 

Veenstra, R., Verlinden, M., Huitsing, G., Verhulst, F. C., & Tiemeier, H. (2013). Behind bullying and defending: Same-sex and other-sex relations and their associations with acceptance and rejection. Aggressive Behavior, 39, 462-471.
Relatively little is known about bullying and defending behaviors of children in early elementary school. However, this period is crucial for children’s development as at this age they start to participate in a stable peer group, and difficulties in social interactions can be detected early by professionals. An interactive animated web-based computer program was used in this study to assess peer relationships among young children. The computerized task was conducted among 2,135 children in grades 1-2 from 22 elementary schools to examine the association of bullying, victimization, and defending with being accepted or rejected. Same-sex and other-sex peer relations were distinguished using dyadic data. Both boys and girls were more likely to accept same-sex classmates than other-sex classmates, and boys were more often nominated than girls as perpetrators of bullying against both boys and girls. It was found that bullies were rejected by those for whom they posed a potential threat, and that defenders were preferred by those classmates for whom they were a potential source of protection. Bullies chose victims who were rejected by significant others, but contrary to expectations, children who bullied boys scored low on peer affection. It is possible that these bullies were not strategic enough to select the “right” targets. Overall, the current findings provide evidence for strategies involved in bullying and defending at early age.

KEY WORDS: bullying, defending, elementary school students, peer relations, victimization 

Veenstra, R., Lindenberg, S., Tinga, F., & Ormel, J. (2010). Truancy in late elementary and early secondary education: The influence of social bonds and self-control. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 34, 302-310.
Some pupils already show unexcused, illegal, surreptitious absences in elementary education or the first years of secondary education. Are weak social bonds (see also Hirschi, 1969) and a lack of self-control (Gottfredson & Hirschi, 1990) indicative of truancy at an early age? Of the children in our sample, 5% were persistent truants in late elementary education and early secondary education. Using multivariate analyses the influence of various predictors on persistent truancy was examined. Lack of attachment to norm-relevant significant others (parents and teachers) and lack of prosocial orientation were indicative of truancy. Social bonds with classmates had no effect on truancy. Other risk factors for truancy were being a boy, early pubertal development, family breakup, and low socio-economic status. The effect of self-control on truancy was partially mediated by social bonds. The impact of social bonds to norm-relevant significant others suggests that early truancy can partly be prevented by focusing on children’s relations with parents at home and with teachers at school. Prevention of truancy is desirable because the likelihood of involvement in other deviant behavior increases for truants.

KEY WORDS: adolescence, effortful control, elementary school children, goal-framing, relationship between parents and adolescents, school environment, self-control, social control, truancy 

Veenstra, R., Huitsing, G., Dijkstra, J.K., & Lindenberg, S. (2010). Friday on my mind: The relation of partying with antisocial behavior of early adolescents. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 20, 420-431. [Appendices]
The relation between partying and antisocial behavior was investigated using a sample of Dutch early adolescents (T2: N = 1,076; M age = 13.52). Antisocial behavior was divided into rule-breaking and aggressive behavior. Using a goal-framing approach, it was argued that the relation of partying to antisocial behavior depends on the way the need to belong is realized. Girls, in early adolescence often physically more mature than boys, are likely to seek older and, thus, often more antisocial boys for partying. Unpopular adolescents are likely to be among themselves when partying, and their feeling of exclusion is likely to lead to antisocial behavior. The findings show that girls who party are indeed at a greater risk of engaging in antisocial behavior, as are unpopular girls and boys.

KEY WORDS: aggressiveness; antisocial behavior; partying; popularity; rule-breaking behavior 

Veenstra, R., Lindenberg, S., Munniksma, A., & Dijkstra, J.K. (2010). The complex relation between bullying, victimization, acceptance, and rejection: Giving special attention to status, affection, and sex differences. Child Development, 81, 480-486.
To understand the complex nature of bullies’ acceptance and rejection, this article considered goal-framing effects of status and affection as they relate to the gender of the bully (male versus female bullies), the target (male versus female victims), and the evaluator (acceptance and rejection from male versus female classmates). The hypotheses were tested with data from a social network questionnaire conducted in 26 elementary school classes (N = 481 children; mean age 10.5 years). The findings revealed that bullies were only rejected by those for whom they were a potential threat and that bullies generally chose their victims so as to minimize loss of affection by choosing victims who were not likely to be defended by significant others.

KEY WORDS: bullying, elementary school students, peer relations, social networks, victimization 

Veenstra, R., Lindenberg, S., Verhulst, F.C., & Ormel, J. (2009). Childhood-Limited versus Persistent Antisocial Behavior: Why Do Some Recover and Others Do Not? The TRAILS Study. Journal of Early Adolescence, 29, 718-742.
Possible differences between childhood-limited antisocial youths and their stable high-antisocial counterparts were examined. Children were 11 years old at wave 1 (T1) and 13.5 at wave 2 (T2). At both waves the same parent, teacher, and self-reports of antisocial behavior were used. Stable highs and childhood-limited antisocial youths differed somewhat in family and individual background. Stable highs had less effortful control, perceived more overprotection, had a higher level of familial vulnerability to externalizing disorder, and lived less often with the same parents throughout their lives than the childhood-limited group. Both groups had similar levels of service use before T1, but after that period the childhood-limited youths received more help from special education needs services than from problem behavior services, and vice versa for stable highs. The results suggest that the childhood-limited antisocial youths recovered not only from antisocial behavior, but also from academic failure, peer rejection, and internalizing problems.

KEY WORDS: antisocial behavior; developmental psychopathology; elementary-school; life-course-persistent; stability 

Veenstra, R., Lindenberg, S., Oldehinkel, A.J., De Winter, A.F., Verhulst, F.C., & Ormel, J. (2008). Prosocial and Antisocial Behavior in Preadolescence: Teachers' and Parents' Perceptions of the Behavior of Girls and Boys. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 32, 243-251.
There has been recent emphasis on the importance of investigating prosocial and antisocial behavior simultaneously owing to doubts about whether examining one automatically gives information about the other. However, there has been little empirical research into this question. The present study (based on a large population sample of preadolescents, N = 2,230) simultaneously examines prosocial and antisocial behavior, explicitly including the possibility that children might show prosocial behavior according to one informant and antisocial behavior according to another. When parents and teachers agreed in their judgments, children were distinctly profiled and differed clearly in effortful control, intelligence, academic performance, and several peer nominations and family characteristics. The correlates were more rater-specific for children that were prosocial according to one informant and antisocial according to the other informant. Teachers and parents used different context-dependent criteria for judging children to be prosocial or antisocial. Academic performance and peer relations were related to the teacher’s judgment of prosocial and antisocial behavior. By contrast, children’s being problematic at home (and thus causing stress for the parents) was related to the parents’ judgment.

KEY WORDS: adolescent development, antisocial behavior, childhood development, prosocial behavior, social perception 

Veenstra, R., Lindenberg, S., Zijlstra, B.J.H., De Winter, A.F., Verhulst, F.C., & Ormel, J. (2007). The Dyadic Nature of Bullying and Victimization: Testing a Dual Perspective Theory. Child Development, 78, 1843-1854.
For this study, information on who bullies who and by whom are you bullied? was collected from 54 school classes with 918 children (M age =11) and 13,606 dyadic relations. Bullying and victimization were viewed separately from the point of view of the bully and the victim. The two perspectives were highly complementary. The probability of a bully-victim relationship was higher if the bully was more dominant than the victim, and if the victim was more vulnerable than the bully and more rejected by the class. In a bully-victim dyad, boys were more often the bullies. There was no finding of sex effect for victimization. Liking reduced and disliking increased the probability of a bully-victim relationship.

KEY WORDS: bullying, elementary school students, peer relations, social networks, victimization 

Veenstra, R., Lindenberg, S., Oldehinkel, A.J., De Winter, A.F., & Ormel, J. (2006). Temperament, Environment, and Antisocial Behavior in a Population Sample of Preadolescent Boys and Girls. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 30, 422-432.
Antisocial behavior can be triggered by negative social experiences and individuals’ processing of these experiences. This study focuses on the interaction between temperament, perceived parenting, socio-economic status (SES), and gender in relation to antisocial behavior in a Dutch population sample of preadolescents (N=2230). Perceived parenting (overprotection, rejection, emotional warmth) was assessed by the EMBU (a Swedish acronym for My Memories of Upbringing) for Children, temperament (effortful control and frustration) by the parent version of the Early Adolescent Temperament Questionnaire-Revised, SES by information on parental education, occupation, and income, and antisocial behavior by the Child Behavior Checklist (parent report) and the Youth Self-Report (child report). All parenting and temperament factors were significantly associated with antisocial behavior. SES was only a related to antisocial behavior among children with a low level of effortful control or a high level of frustration. Furthermore, the association of SES and frustration with antisocial behavior was stronger in boys. Thus, the effects of SES depend on the temperament and gender of the child.

KEY WORDS: antisocial behavior, childrearing practices, preadolescence, sex differences, socio-economic status, temperament 

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.
Research on bullying and victimization largely rests on univariate analyses and on reports from a single informant. Researchers may thus know too little about the simultaneous effects of various independent and dependent variables, and their research may be biased by shared method variance. The database for this Dutch study was large (N = 1,065) and rich enough to allow multivariate analysis and multisource information. In addition, the effect of familial vulnerability for internalizing and externalizing disorders was studied. Gender, aggressiveness, isolation, and dislikability were most strongly related to bullying and victimization. Among the many findings that deviated from or enhanced the univariate knowledge base were that not only victims and bully/victims but bullies as well were disliked and that parenting was unrelated to bullying and victimization once other factors were controlled.

KEY WORDS: bullying, childhood development, peer relations, psychosocial factors, victimization