Bully/victim problems and their association with Machiavellianism and self-efficacy in Greek primary school children.Br J Educ Psychol 2004; 74(Pt 2):297-309BJ
Previous research demonstrated that Machiavellian beliefs are linked with bully/victim problems at school. However, Machiavellianism was treated as a single construct and not as multidimensional. Children's perceptions of self-efficacy in both social and academic domains have been related to conflictual peer interactions but not directly to bully/victim problems. This study extends previous work by examining the association of Machiavellianism and self-efficacy with bully/victim problems.
The main purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between bully/victim problems and (a) components of Machiavellian beliefs, (b) Self-efficacy for Assertion, (c) Self-efficacy for Aggression and (d) Self-efficacy for Learning and Performance, among school-age children. It was also examined whether children who bully others and are bullied themselves (bully/victims) are a distinct group in terms of Machiavellian beliefs and the above perceptions of self-efficacy.
The sample consisted of 186 children drawn from the fourth to sixth grade classrooms of four primary schools in central Greece.
Peer victimization and bullying behaviour were assessed by two 6-item self-report scales (Austin & Joseph, 1996), Machiavellian beliefs with a 20-item scale (Christie & Geis, 1970), Self-efficacy for Assertion and Self-efficacy for Aggression with two 6-item scales (Egan & Perry, 1998) and Self-efficacy for Learning and Performance with an 8-item scale (Pintrich, Smith, Garcia, & McKeachie, 1991). Higher scores reflected greater victimization, bullying behaviour, Machiavellianism and domain specific self-efficacy. Data were analysed using both correlational and categorical approach.
Factor analysis of the Kiddie Mach scale revealed four main factors: Lack of Faith in Human Nature, Manipulation, Dishonesty and Distrust. The results of the correlational approach suggest that both bullying and victimization are associated with most of these factors, overall Machiavellianism and self-efficacy measures. Separate analyses for boys and girls provide a more precise picture of that association. The results of the categorical approach, regarding differences in the Kiddie Mach and Self-efficacy scales between bullies, victims and bully/victims, suggest that bully/victims are a distinct group in terms of Lack of Faith in Human Nature and overall Machiavellianism. Moreover, bully/victims were found to be similar to victims with respect to Self-efficacy for Assertion but similar to bullies with respect to Self-efficacy for Aggression.
Anti-bullying interventions might profit from a greater focus on mastery-oriented motivation and more emphasis on citizenship and interpersonal relationships in order to minimize children's aggression-encouraging cognition and reduce Machiavellian attitudes. Further research is needed to explain satisfactorily the behaviour patterns of bully/victims.