Student-, classroom-, and school-level risk factors for victimization

Document Type

Journal Article




Faculty of Health, Engineering and Science


School of Exercise and Health Sciences / Child Health Promotion Research Centre




Saarento, S., Karna, A., Hodges, E., & Salmivalli, C. (2013). Student-, classroom-, and school-level risk factors for victimization. Journal of School Psychology, 51(3), 421-434. Available here


The purpose of this study was to simultaneously investigate student-, classroom-, and school-level risk factors for victimization. Both peer nominations and students' self-reports of victimization were utilized. The sample consisted of 6731 Finnish elementary school students (3386 girls and 3345 boys) nested in 358 classrooms in 74 schools. The participants were from Grades 3, 4, and 5 (mean age 11. years). The results of multilevel analyses indicated that there was considerable variability in, and distinctive risk factors associated with, both peer- and self-reported victimization at all the three levels investigated. Social anxiety and peer rejection synergistically predicted victimization at the student level. At the classroom level, negative social outcome expectations of defending the victim were associated with an increased risk of a student being bullied. Victimization was also common in classrooms and schools where students perceived their teachers to have less disapproving attitudes toward bullying. Furthermore, the effects of the student-level predictors were found to vary across classrooms, and classroom size moderated the effects of social anxiety and peer rejection on victimization. By identifying the risk factors at the multiple levels, and looking into cross-level interactions among these factors, research can help to target interventions at the key ecological factors contributing to victimization, making it possible to maximize the effectiveness of interventions.