Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 39, Issue 9, pp 1041–1052 | Cite as

Clueless or Powerful? Identifying Subtypes of Bullies in Adolescence

  • Margot Peeters
  • Antonius H. N. Cillessen
  • Ron H. J. Scholte
Empirical Research


This study examined the heterogeneity of bullying among adolescents. It was hypothesized that bullying behavior serves different social functions and, depending on these functions, bullies will differ in their skills, status and social behavior. In a total sample of 806 8th graders, 120 adolescents (52 boys, 68 girls) were identified as bullies based on peer nominations. An additional group of 50 adolescents (25 boys, 25 girls) served as the non-bully comparison group. Cluster analysis revealed three corresponding bully subtypes for boys and girls: a popular-socially intelligent group, a popular moderate group, and an unpopular-less socially intelligent group. Follow-up analyses showed that the clusters differed significantly from each other in physical and verbal aggression, leadership, network centrality, peer rejection, and self-perceptions of bullying. The results confirm the heterogeneous nature of bullies and the complex nature of bullying in the adolescent peer group.


Bullying Social intelligence Machiavellianism Popularity Relational aggression 



This research was supported by a Master’s Research Grant from the Behavioural Science Institute to the first author. The authors are grateful to the students who participated in this study. Special thanks are also due to the teachers and administrators of the Valuas College, Venlo and the BBC College, Panningen, The Netherlands who made this research possible.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Margot Peeters
    • 1
  • Antonius H. N. Cillessen
    • 1
  • Ron H. J. Scholte
    • 1
  1. 1.Behavioural Science InstituteRadboud Universiteit NijmegenNijmegenThe Netherlands

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