Welcome to my blog.

I am currently a graduate student working on a dissertation that will research the long term effects of bullying on the victims. Who do the victims become in adulthood and what impact did the victimization have on the choices made in adulthood. Most people can point to anecdotal examples, i.e. the skinny/obese child who became a bodybuilder/martial arts expert or the “ugly duckling” who underwent plastic surgery to become the beautiful swan, but is that the norm or outliers?

At this point in my search I haven’t found much research covering this topic or information about support for adults who were victimized as children.

It is my hope that out of my research I will be able to not only open doors to further research in this area, but also uncover replicateable interventions that can be used to help those children currently suffering from victimization and hopefully to launch support group and treatment methods for those adults who were victimized.

As I read through the different journal articles, Masters thesis’s, Doctoral dissertations, published books, and intervention programs I will post my thoughts, comments, and critiques. I welcome any constructive input from the readers, as well as any stories of your personal experiences that you don’t mind sharing. I do want to note, that while it is my hope that anyone reading this site will benefit from it, this site is in no way a replacement for therapy, is not a formal support group or therapy group, and I am in no way your therapist.

This forum offers NO CONFIDENTILITY.

If you would like further information on finding support in your area, I would be more than happy to help you look, though at this point my searches haven’t turned up a whole lot.

That all being said, it is now time for me to begin.

Thank you sincerely,

R. Brian Salinas, MA
Psy.D. (candidate)

Friday, December 19, 2008

Bullying: How Does It Affect Me, Let Me Count the Ways

This first blog entry is actually the preliminary proposal I wrote for my dissertation. I post it here not only for you to review my current thoughts, but to have access to the literature I have already read. While I critique other material going forward, I don’t want to have to keep restating my previous research. I hope you understand. Once I have completed my dissertation I will post my complete bibliography.

I do want to mention that I will not be posting the original articles or hyperlinks to those articles unless I have been given proper authorization by the authors or publishing companies involved.

Bullying: How Does It Affect Me, Let Me Count the Ways


“Dave, what brings you into my office today?” asked the school counselor. Dave looks around the office, not answering the counselor’s question. Dave is fifteen years old and has been on the receiving end of bullying since elementary school. He doesn’t know why it started, he can’t even tell you when it all began, he just knows he feels bad and he’d rather not be in school.

Dave finally speaks, asking the counselor, “What is the difference between a terrorist and a bully?” The counselor was a bit thrown by this question and tries to reply with, “well, a terrorist is someone who will blow places up..” Dave cuts him off with, “The only difference is in the level of organized planning. When you come to school everyday terrified that someone is going to call you names, humiliate you, spread rumors about you, hit you, trip you… you live in a warzone every day and you don’t know when the pain and the attacks will stop.”

Social conflict is a way in which a person develops the skills necessary to navigate future relationships (Gottheil, 1999). Unfortunately, bullying and peer victimization do not fall into the category of normal social conflict (Gottheil, 1999). In 1999, two victims of bullying lashed out, killing twelve students and one teacher, while injuring 24 others, and then taking their own lives (Ross-Durow, 2007). This took place at Columbine High School (Ross-Durow, 2007). March 7th, 2001 saw an emotionally distraught 14-year-old girl shot and injure a cheerleader at her school (Hathorn, 2004). In 2002, on March 28th, in British Columbia, a 14-year-old girl was convicted of criminal harassment (Smith, 2007). The victim committed suicide (Smith, 2007). These are public examples of how some victims deal with being exposed to peer victimization. While these types of events make the news there are untold others that are never reported on. Often the bullying is suffered in silence.

Currently, the United States, along with Canada, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and 16 countries in Europe report having a problem of bullying in their schools (Smith & Brain, 2000). This information makes it reasonable to state that most students experience some level of aggression while attending school (Smith & Brain, 2000). In the United States the current estimates of the number of students who regularly experience bullying is around 8%-15% (Rock, Hammond, & Rasmussen, 2004; Schmidt & Bagwell, 2007; Leff, 2007; Hoglund, 2007). It should be noted that the definition of bullying can impact this number; if all aggressive behavior is classified as bullying, then the number of reported victims can be as high as 81% of school aged boys and 72% or school aged girls (Casey-Cannon, Hayward, & Gowen, 2001). The purpose of this research study is to explore the long-term effects of bullying on the victims, more particularly to determine what impact it had on how they navigate adulthood.

Literature Review

Within the literature written about bullying, there are four terms which are used interchangeably: violence, aggression, peer victimization, and bullying (Orpinas & Horne, 2006; Casey-Cannon, Hayward, & Gowen, 2001). The violence prevention field classifies violence as one individual against another, whether or not there is a social connection (i.e. intimate partners, family members, acquaintances, or strangers), and it can involve behaviors such as aggravated assault, homicide, and rape (Orpinas & Horne, 2006). Aggression is defined as behaviors that are intended to harm others such as hitting, pushing, isolating a peer on purpose, and name-calling, but most do not live in fear of the humiliation and pain associated with bullying (Crick & Grotpeter, 1995; Orpinas & Horne, 2006). Peer victimization is considered an unprovoked attack against the student which causes injury of a physical, social, or psychological nature (Casey-Cannon, Hayward, & Gowen, 2001). Finally, bullying is considered to be repeated actions inflicted with malicious intent on someone perceived as weaker by an individual or group that perceives themselves as stronger (Baldry, 2004; Orpinas & Horne, 2006; Rock, Hammond, & Rasmussen, 2004).

By using these terms interchangeably, confusion has been created around who is the true victim and what percent of students are being victimized. As noted early, by generalizing the term aggression/aggressive behavior the percent of students who claim to have experienced bullying changes from 8%-15% to 81% for boys and 72% for girls. To reduce confusion and focus this study, I define bullying as: an unprovoked attack that causes injury of a physical, social, or psychological nature that is perpetrated against a weaker student by a stronger individual or group, and done with malicious intent repeatedly over time.

To better understand the long term impact of bullying on the victims, it is important to look the different types of bullying, categories of bullies and victims, and at the manner in which both male and female students bully. Bullying can be done in a direct and an indirect fashion (Lagerspetz, Bjorkqvist, & Petlonen, 1988; Bjorkqvist, Lagerspetz, & Kaukiainen, 1992; Baldry, 2004). Direct bullying is defined as overtly aggressive behavior such as hitting, pushing, name calling, and verbal threats (Crick, 1996). Indirect bullying, also known as social manipulation or relational victimization, is where the perpetrator attacks the victim in a manner that keeps them unidentified and hides their intent to hurt the victim (Bjorkqvist, Lagerspetz, & Kaukiainen, 1992; Lagerspetz, Bjorkqvist, & Petlonen, 1988; Storch, Brassard, & Masia-Warner, 2003; Osterman, Bjorkqvist, Lagerspetz, Kaukiainen, Huesmann, & Fraczek, 1994). This is accomplished through damaging the victims peer relationships and purposeful manipulation, for example spreading rumors or initiating exclusion from a group (Crick, 1996; Storch, Brassard, & Masia-Warner, 2003; Schmidt & Bagwell, 2007), taking revenge by befriending someone else, breaking confidence and revealing personal secrets, and making subtle remarks behind the victim’s back (Miller & Vaillancourt, 2007).

In this study, we will distinguish three types of bullies; they are the aggressive bully, the follower, and the relational bully (Orpinas & Horne, 2006). The aggressive bully is the person who initiates aggression against the victim and is the type most readily identifiable by outside observers (Orpinas & Horne, 2006). The acts of aggression are usually overt and are either physical or verbal, or a combination of the two (Orpinas & Horne, 2006). The follower bully is someone who joins in on the bullying activity, i.e. as the assistant, or cheers the aggressive bully on (Orpinas & Horne, 2006). The relational bully uses indirect and covert forms of aggression, hurting the victim by spreading rumors and lies, or taking actions that damage the victim’s relationships with other peers (Orpinas & Horne, 2006).

Just as with the bully, there are three types of victims: passive, provocative, and relational (Orpinas & Horne, 2006). The passive victim is a child who was singled out without provocation; their only crime is exhibiting some characteristics which made them easy targets for aggressors (Orpinas & Horne, 2006; Egan & Perry, 1998), such as being overweight, small in physical stature, having a learning disability (McMauley, 2007), cry easy (Egan & Perry, 1998), or being a new student at the school (Orpinas & Horne, 2006). These children tend to internalize their feelings, often being unaware of their emotions and unable to effectively deal with feelings of anger and sadness (Malcom, 2003).

The provocative victim is a student who, through inappropriate behaviors, triggers the bully’s aggression (Orpinas & Horne, 2006). The provocative victim is often a child who displays hyperactive symptoms and annoys other students around them (McMauley, 2007). It is further believed that these children tend to respond aggressively toward their victimizer, thus seek retaliation when provoked (Malcom, 2003). The relational victim is the student who is the victim of the relational bully (Orpinas & Horne, 2006).

In the early stages of researching the topic of bullying, most studies were conducted in a manner that operationalized bullying, typically as acts of physical aggression (Bjorkqvist, 1994). Due to this interpretation of bullying it was originally thought that girls engaged in significantly less bullying behavior than boys (Baldry, 2004; Bjorkqvist, 1994; Casey-Cannon, Hayward, & Gowen, 2001; Crick, 1996; Crick & Grotpeter, 1995). However, with the inclusion of relational aggression, research has shown that girls do engage just as frequently in bullying as boys (Baldry, 2004; Bjorkqvist, 1994; Casey-Cannon, Hayward, & Gowen, 2001; Crick, 1996; Crick & Grotpeter, 1995). Lagerspetz, Bjorkqvist, & Petlonen, (1988) conducted a study to support their hypothesis that girls would engage in more indirect aggression than boys. The study was conducted using 89 girls and 78 boys, recruited from four municipal schools in Turku, the 5th largest city in Finland (Lagerspetz, Bjorkqvist, & Petlonen, 1988). The students rated each other on topics such as Behavior While Angry, Frequency of Anger, and Friendship Patterns of the class (Lagerspetz, Bjorkqvist, & Petlonen, 1988). The results indicated that girls did prefer indirect aggression while boys tended to engage in more direct, albeit physical, forms of aggression (Lagerspetz, Bjorkqvist, & Petlonen, 1988). Although the study was geographically and ethnically limited, it helped to demonstrate that bullying isn’t just a physical phenomenon.

The victims of bullying have been reported to suffer from low self-esteem, depression, anxiety (McMauley, 2007; Miller & Vaillancourt, 2007), anger, and sadness (Casey-Cannon, et al., 2001). These feelings can lead the victim to develop avoidant coping behaviors such as avoid specific “unsafe” areas on campus (McMauley, 2007), or engage in acts of truancy (Miller & Vaillancourt, 2007).

Around the world, different countries have developed bullying programs in an attempt to address the issue; unfortunately the programs haven’t met with strong success (Hersh, 2002). Most programs aim to impact bullying through changing the behavior of the bully and empower the victim, by providing them tools to help them work through any situations which arise (Valles, 2007).

The prevalence of the victim-victimizer dynamic has some researchers postulating that bullying is a normative process in the development of a child (Smith & Brain, 2000). To point out that bullying is not universally held as being socially unacceptable, Smith & Brain (2000) mention an article which spoke of a United Kingdom politician who reported bullying didn’t harm him and in fact had prepared him for life. This report is contrary to the popular belief that harm is done to victims and that bullying needs to be countered (Smith & Brain, 2000). However, other reports have discussed concern of victims of bullying, particularly female victims, having issues with body-image disturbances (Cash, 1995).
Cash (1995) reported that severity of body-image teasing was the most predictive factor of body-image dysphoria. His sample was comprised of 111 women, attending Old Dominion University, in Virginia. The women of his study ranged from 18 to 39 years of age, 79% being listed as Caucasian, 9% as African-American, and “the rest were from minority groups” (Cash, 1995, p. 124). Cash (1995) found 71% of his participants having body-image dysphoria due to being teased about some aspect of their appearance during adolescence.

In another study, Baldry (2004) found a strong correlation between indirect bullying and victims manifesting anxiety, depression, withdrawn behaviors, and somatic complaints. In her study she reviewed 661 adolescents of Italian ancestry (Baldry, 2004). The participants were comprised of approximately 358 males and 303 females, recruited from 10 different middles school in Rome and its suburbs (Baldry, 2004). This study focused on a 12 month period, asking the children to rate any acts of bullying they may have perpetrated or received during that time (Baldry, 2004).

In a 2003 study, Storch, Brassard, and Masia-Warner found students who were bullied experienced more anxiety and loneliness than those students who weren’t bullied. More importantly, their research suggests that adolescents who were victimized by multiple forms of aggression, both overt and relational, demonstrated the highest levels of social difficulty (Storch, Brassard, & Masia-Warner, 2003). The sample was comprised 238 females and 145 males (n=383), who where in the 9th (n=196) and 10th (n=187) grades. The participants were recruited from an urban parochial high school in the Northeastern United States, with a mean age of 14 years and 4 months (SD=6 months). The students ethnically were predominantly European American (83.8%), with 16.7% being comprised of African Americans (3.1%), Hispanic (6.2%), Asian (2.5%), and unspecified “Other” (4.9%, Storch, et al., 2003, p. 4). The study used Social Experience Questionnaire—Self Report (EQ—S), Social Anxiety Scale for Adolescents (SAS-A), Social Phobia and Anxiety Inventory for Children, and The Multidimensional Anxiety Scale for Children (MASC).

Retrospective studies have indicated a correlation between victimization and psychological issues during adulthood (Miller & Vaillancourt, 2007). Middle school children who reported being victims of social exclusion have been noted to experience low self-esteem and interpersonal difficulties in adulthood (Miller & Vaillancourt, 2007). Additionally, there are reports linking anxiety and social phobia in adulthood to severe childhood teasing and bullying (Miller & Vaillancourt, 2007). A current study conducted by Miller & Vaillancourt (2007) found a strong relationship between indirect victimization during childhood and increased levels of perfectionism in young adulthood. While critics of their study would be quick to point out that it was conducted only on female freshman at a university in southern Ontario, Canada, it should be noted that the study does provide support for the theory that victimization will have an impact on what coping mechanisms a person develops and uses during adulthood.

In another study, Crick (1996) found a link between relational aggression and future social maladjustment. Crick conducted the study using 245 children selected from two elementary schools located in the Midwest (Crick, 1996). The participants were third, fourth, and fifth graders, with a mix of 106 girls and 139 boys, of which 29% identified as African American and the remaining identified as European American. (Crick, 1996). The children were assessed through questionnaires three times over a one year period (Crick, 1996). While Crick (1996) used a sufficient number of subjects, the short duration of the study weakens her ability to generalize the results into “future social maladjustment. However, the article does lay a foundation for conducting research with adults to determine if there is validity to her interpretation of the results.

Each of the studies is limited in its geographic, ethnic, and social economic representations. Most or all of the participants were of European decent, with the studies either taking place on the East Coast, Canada, or Europe. However, these studies do support the idea that bullying does create an environment that is not conducive to appropriate psychosocial development of the victims. Heuristically, these studies cause raise questions such as what are the coping mechanisms used by the victims upon reaching adulthood? Do they ever fully overcome the impact of the bullying or does it impact their interactions with others people in academic, professional, and personal situations? How many of these children grow up to being adults with somatic issues, depressive symptoms, and engaged in therapy? Based upon the results of these studies, it would does not appear to be unreasonable to theorize that survivors of these traumatic events would grow up to have poor social skills, have difficulty managing careers that require large amounts of person-to-person interactions. However, other forms of social support, such as parents or classmates or school personnel, could influence these outcomes (Leff, 2007). Leff (2007), reports the bully-victim, those students who victimized as well as victimize others, has the highest rates non-peer-oriented support as well as other forms of victimization happening, e.g. child maltreatment and sexual victimizations.

Schmidt & Bagwell (2007) discuss the possible impact having a friend could have on the negative effects of victimization. Their study was conducted under the presemise that having a “best friend” would be associated with a decrease in the emotional impact of peer victimization (Schmidt & Bagwell, 2007). Their participants were 670 children attending elementary school in Pennsylvania (Schmidt & Bagwell, 2007). The participants ranged in age from 8-10 years old, with between 56% and 74% being of low SES (Schmidt & Bagwell, 2007). Ethnically, 54% of the students identified as Hispanic, 34% identified as White, and 12% indentified as African American (Schmidt & Bagwell, 2007). The study measured Frienship Quality, with the children rating the quality of their friendships using the Friendship Qualities Scale (FQS), Victimization, by using the self-reports on the Social Experiences Questionnaire (SEQ), Depression, measured by the use of The Children’s Depression Inventory-Short Form (CDI-SF), and Anxiety, as measured by the Revised-Children’s Manifest Anxiety Scale (R-CMA) (Schmidt & Bagwell, 2007). Their findings suggested that the impact of overt and relational victimization was effected by friendship quality, though they found gender to be a critical variable (Schmidt & Bagwell, 2007). They found that girls who reported high degrees of help from their friends had lower incidents of social concerns when confronted with overt and relational victimizations (Schmidt & Bagwell, 2007). In light of this information, some of the questions asked in the interview should cover the participants friendships and the believed effect those friendships had on the psychological development of the subject.


To find the answers to open questions dealing with how a person overcame the effects of bullying or what coping mechanisms did the victim create or how it impacted the victim’s life choices, the researcher would need to study the long-term consequences of these childhood experiences. Currently, most of these types of studies are done by obtaining interviews retrospectively from participants during their adulthood (Hardt & Rutter, 2004). Accordingly, this type of data is referred to as retrospective data (Hardt & Rutter, 2004).

The research will be conducted by using qualitative research methodologies. I am choosing to use a qualitative format because I feel it will provide a more detailed understanding of the issue while providing the subjects the opportunity to share their story as they see it (Creswell, 2007). The final reason I am choosing to conduct my research using the qualitative method is because at this time there isn’t adequate research available on the life long impact of long-term victimization.

As part of my qualitative approach, I begin my research with the assumption that bullying, defined as, an unprovoked attack that causes injury of a physical, social, or psychological nature that is perpetrated against a weaker student by a stronger individual or group, and done with malicious intent repeatedly over time. Within the scope of this definition, and based upon the research presented by Casey-Cannon, et al (2001), McMauley (2007), Miller & Vaillancourt (2007), I propose that it is reasonable to assume that victimization has a long-term impact on the psychological development of the victim. I also believe that to deal with the circumstances the victim develops coping mechanisms that follow them into adulthood and direct the choices they made as adults. To test this assumption I will use retrospective data gathering, review of academic transcripts, subject work history, medical history (with a particular eye towards any psychological diagnosis/treatment and somatic representations), and if possible review of any literature or journals the subjects wrote during periods of bullying.

After collecting the data I will begin to construct and determine what patterns are present by breaking the information into abstract units of information (Creswell, 2007). It is then my intent to have the participant review the categories and discuss any differences of opinion until consensus can be reached. Additionally, if any new data emerges or pertinent feedback is provided, it will be incorporated into my analysis. After the subjects have provided their feedback and consensus of the data has been reached, and my analysis is complete, I will again enlist the aid of my subjects, by having them review my interpretation of the categories and to ensure that any quotes used are done so in the proper context.
Participants will be recruited via the Internet. This is the most efficient manner in which to reach the largest number of possible recruits in the shortest amount of time. Additionally, this approach of recruitment will allow for the greatest randomization of the sample population. While I will be using a means of recruiting that could potentially allow me access to people all over the world, I will limit my subject pool to those people living within the San Francisco Bay Area. The participant are being limited in this manner due to the fact that part of the process will be face-to-face meetings, as such, based upon current lack of resources, it would be to difficult to coordinate meeting with participant outside of the designated area. Additionally, the San Francisco Bay Area is cosmopolitan enough as to provide descent access to a wide variety of participants. While the subjects will be limited to the Bay Area, it should be noted that they will still be comprised of a fairly dispersed group and thus provide important contextual information; which will be useful in the constructing of my categories.

I will further limit the number of participants by administering the Social Experience Questionnaire (Casey-Cannon, et al, 2001; Storch, et al, 2003; Schmidt & Bagwell, 2007) Direct and Indirect Aggression Scale (Miller & Vaillancourt, 2007; Osterman, et al, 1994). The Social Experience Questionnaire (SEQ) is a tool used to measure relational and overt victimization (Casey-Cannon, et al, 2001, Schmidt & Bagwell, 2007). The SEQ is comprised of three sub-scales; measuring overt victimization, relational victimization; and pro-social attention (Casey-Cannon, 2001). Using a five point Likert (1=”Never” and 5= “All the time) scale the respondents rate “how often” they experienced these behaviors (Casey-Cannon, 2001). This test will help to determine if the person experienced bullying as it has been define for this research project, an unprovoked attack that causes injury of a physical, social, or psychological nature that is perpetrated against a weaker student by a stronger individual or group, and done with malicious intent repeatedly over time.

After the SEQ, the participants will then take the Direct and Indirect Aggression Scale (DIAS) (Miller & Vaillancourt, 2007; Osterman, et al, 1994). The DIAS is a 24-item instrument that is comprised of both an aggressor and victim version and was developed with the intent of investigating different styles of aggression, i.e. direct physical or verbal aggression, indirect physical or verbal aggression (Miller & Vaillancourt, 2007; Osterman, et al, 1994). For this study, I will use the Aggressor version to help me determine if the potential participant was a bully/victim or a pure victim.

While it would be clinically interesting to study the long –term effects of bullying on the bully and the bully/victim, these two areas of research are beyond the scope of this research project. This pilot study will focus only on those adults who were purely victims of bullying with the intent of determining how the childhood/adolescent bullying impacted their lives in adulthood.

It should be noted that prior to giving a potential participant any screen I will view with them their rights to confidentiality and to withdraw from the study at anytime. Additionally, I will provide the prescreening and full level participants a list of local therapists and help lines for them to contact if for any reason the process brings up unresolved, traumatic issues for them.

My goal is to have five male and five female volunteers taking part in the study. After a participant has been fully screened and they meet the criteria of being a pure victim, I will then meet with them in-person to conduct a Mental Status Exam (MSE) and a Developmental History. The MSE will be used to help determine whether or not the participant is psychologically capable of taking part in the study. If a person reaches the point of meeting with me for the MSE and they turn out to not be psychologically stable enough to partake in the study, then I will make note of that in my final report, since that information may have clinical/research significance. The Developmental History will be taken as a way of starting to cross verify information provided in the previous screening and the face-to-face interviews. I would potential highlight any outside areas which might have influenced or been influenced by the victimization.

All interviews will be video taped, with appropriate consent being obtained prior to the start of interviews. The video tape will be used to help ensure accuracy in the transcription of the interviews. All interviews will be typed up in their entirety, and then reviewed by two outside volunteers, both high school teachers with familiarity of the topic of bullying. The data from the transcripts will then be bucketed into categories that arise from the data. The process will continue until there is appropriate saturation of the categories. Then, as mentioned earlier, the participants will be asked to review the categories and provide their input. The discussion will be held until there is consensus on categories and any new input from the participants will be included in the report.


In reviewing the limitations of this pilot study, the first item it addresses is the use of retrospective data. Critics of retrospective data will quickly point out that there typically is a degree of forgetting involved with any event due to vagaries of memories, possible biasing caused by therapeutic experiences, and that people can only recall to consciousness those events that they were aware of at the time (Hardt & Rutter, 2004). Additional, critics would raise concern about accuracy of participants’ memories concerning the sequences of timing of the events in question and possible influence of current mood states on past memories (Hardt & Rutter, 2004). Because of these concerns I felt it was prudent to review research articles testing the accuracy of retrospective data to determine if it is a suitable data gathering technique for this study.

Hardt and Rutter (2004) conducted a meta-analytic study of articles using retrospective reports. Hardt and Rutter (2004) chose to focus their study on 8 studies that validated data used from retrospective recall. The original list was created by conducting a search in the medline and PsychINFO databases, as well as a hand search (Hardt & Rutter, 2004). They paired the list down from approximately 39 articles, eliminating any article that had less than 40 subjects and in which corroboration wasn’t available (Hardt & Rutter, 2004). In their study, Hardt and Rutter (2004) found that research currently supports the accuracy of retrospective data for issue of “serious, readily operationalized, adverse experiences” from childhood can be considered sufficiently valid.
In their study, Schraedley, Turner, & Gotlib (2002) sought to examine the stability of retrospective reporting by individuals whose depression had changed between two assessments conducted about a year apart. Schraedley, et al. (2002) used 1,202 participants from Toronto, Canada, who ranged in age from 18 to 55 year old, were fluent in English, and physically and mentally capable of answering the questionnaires. The measures were administered twice in face-to-face interviews, approximately one year apart (Schraedley, Turner, & Gotlib, 2002). The results from Schraedley, et al’s (2002) study indicates that client reports of traumatic experiences can be impacted by the level of the client’s depression.

In an article published in the Journal of Psychological Assessment, Henry, Moffitt, Caspi, Langley, and Silva (1994) investigated whether or not the use of retrospective data is justified within the field of research. The subjects were 1,008 adolescents involved in the Dunedin, New Zealand Multidisciplinary Health Development Study (Henry, Moffitt, Caspi, Langley, & Silva, 1994). The participants of this study were tracked from birth, with data being updated every two years starting at the age of 3, which means subsequent data was collected at the ages 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, and 15 (Henry, et al, 1994). When the participants turned 18 years of age they were interviewed to measure their retrospective recall of items such as residence changes, Height, Injuries, Attachment to Parents, Family Conflict, Mother’s Depression, etc. (Henry, Moffitt, Caspi, Langley, & Silva, 1994). Henry, et al (1994) failed to find any substantial support for the validity of using retrospective measures of family processes or psychological states.

In 2004, Ayhan and Isiksal conducted a study to examine factors of recall error on retrospective reporting. For their study, Ayhan and Isiksal (2004) recruited 100 subjects from a sampling frame of 20,000. The participants were individuals who had visited the University Health Centre at a university located in the country of Turkey (Ayhan & Isiksal, 2004). The participants had a total of 416 multiple visits, comprising of 181 short term visits and 235 long term visits (Ayhan & Isiksal, 2004). A questionnaire was developed to retrieve data from the subjects concerning their short-term (0-3 months) and long-term (3-12 months) recall of the events (Ayhan & Isiksal, 2004). The results of their research indicate a correlation between higher education and an increase short term omissions and a decrease in over reporting (Ayhan & Isiksal, 2004). Additionally, Ayhan and Isiksal (2004) found that high frequency of events also created omissions of data within the short term period and low frequency of events created less omissions of data within the longer term period.

The research reviewed above casts doubt on the validity of using retrospective data (Schraedley, Turner, & Gotlib, 2002; Henry, Moffitt, Caspi, Langley, & Silva, 1994; Ayhan & Isiksal, 2004). While each article possess their own limitations and weaknesses (i.e. limited geographic applicability, no indication of SES or ethnic influences, etc.) the research strongly suggests using multiple avenues to collect and correlate the data.
In looking further at the use of retrospective data for a study, it is important to also keep in mind the purpose of the data gathering. The purpose of this study is to allow the participants to tell their story and how their recollection of being bullied influences who they are and to determine what impact the bullying had and how it affects their choices today. In light of this, is the exact reporting of the events more important than the general memory and remembered feelings?

Retrospective data is about collecting the information about the past as the participant remembers it. The accuracy of the data isn’t as important as the emotional content around the data remembered. It is this area that inspires the decisions and choices a person makes in adulthood. Remembering why the dog bit you is not as impactful as the fact that you were bit. Fifty years after the dog bite, you may not remember the exact age you where when it happened or the fact that you were pulling the dogs ears, but you will remember being scared and hurt; and how from that day on you were afraid to go near a dog.

With survivors of bullying, it should be the same. The survivor may not remember all the details, but they will remember they were bullied. They will remember feelings of inadequacy, not fitting in, being alienated, etc.; and they will remember the promises they made to themselves, such as I will show them, I will earn more money then they ever could imagine, or I will get back at them so how, etc. While the memories may not be technically and/or sequentially accurate, the emotions of the events will be. It is this information that is the most pertinent for this pilot study on the impact of bullying on the victims. These promises and memories of the humiliation, alienation, and the pain are what drive the adult survivor, push them to the choices, good or bad, that they make. This information can most appropriately be captured and represented through reporting of retrospective data.

Furthermore, by allowing the participants to tell their story through open-ended questions, their retrospective reporting of events may prove to be therapeutic in and of itself. For some of the participants it may be the first time they have had anyone sit down with them, interested in hearing their life story and providing them the space to express the thoughts and feelings they may have been carrying around all these years. For others it could allow them to hold the hope that the pain and trauma they went through as a child or adolescent may be used in a manner that will help others.

If this study didn’t use a retrospective approach, then these clients wouldn’t be provided the opportunity to tell their story. Some of them may actually feel marginalized and taken advantage of. By acknowledging their story as they remember it, as the emotionally feel it, they are provided the space to heal.

The participants of this study will be recruited from the San Francisco Bay Area. This limits the studies applicability to the general population. While the San Francisco Bay Area has a highly cosmopolitan population and cultural mix, it never the less has an overarching culture that might impact the results of the study.

Another limitation of is the homogeneity of the sample population. Since all participant will be pure victims of bullying and no bullies or bully-victims will be used in the study, this will limit the wide spread applicability of the results. However, since this is a pilot study, the use of a homogeneous group to develop the initial theory is a reasonable step in the research process (Creswell, 2007). Later research would look to compare the results from this initial group with those results from other groups, e.g. bullies and bully-victims.

For this study, the initial plan is to use ten participants, five males and five females. Critics of this study may point out that the small number of participants will limit the studies applicability to the general population. However, it should be pointed out, that by using this small number the researchers are better able to find general categories which can later be used in the creation of future questionnaires. The rationale for the follow up studies would be to confirm of disconfirm the theory created by this initial study (Creswell, 2007).


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