The Link Between Bullying/Victimisation and Emotional Functioning: A Comparative Study on Dutch and Malay Adolescents
Garcia Garcia, Ana Sofia Garcia
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Bullying and victimization peak in adolescence and both have detrimental effects on individual development. Past research suggests that bullying/victimization in adolescents is associated with poor emotional functioning. To date, this has been studied mainly in Western adolescents, only representing a small percentage of the world population. The purpose of this study was twofold. First, we aimed to investigate the associations between adolescents’ emotional functioning (anger, fear, shame, guilt) and their bullying/victimization. Second, by comparing the relations in Dutch and Malaysian adolescents, we explored whether cultural orientations moderated the relations between emotional functioning and bullying/victimization. 246 Dutch and 284 Malaysian adolescents (12-14 years old) filled in questionnaires to report their bullying/victimization behaviors and their emotional functioning in the classroom. Heightened levels of fear were related to more bullying and victimization, and heightened levels of shame was related to more victimization in both Dutch and Malaysian adolescents. Anger was positively related to bullying and victimization in both groups, but the relations were stronger in Malaysian adolescents. As for guilt, it was negatively related to bullying, but this relation was found only in Dutch adolescents. Our findings showed that excessive and unregulated experience of fear, anger and shame could contribute to bullying and victimization behaviors in adolescents, regardless of the culture. Heightened levels of anger were especially detrimental for Malaysian adolescents, possibly because anger was less accepted in collectivistic cultures. On the other hand, proneness to guilt was protective against bullying behaviors although the relation was found only in Dutch adolescents, possibly because guilt was more prevalent in Individualistic culture. Our findings highlight the importance of studying adolescents’ social behaviors and emotional functioning within the specific cultural context.