Childhood Predictors of Adolescent Joint Trajectories: A Multi-Informant Study on Bullying Perpetration and Hypercompetitiveness
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OBJECTIVE: Bullying perpetration has been proposed to be a strategic behavior used by adolescents to compete for social resources, yet the co-development of bullying perpetration and trait hypercompetitiveness is understudied. The joint developmental trajectories of self-rated bullying perpetration and parent-rated hypercompetitiveness were investigated in a sample of adolescents and childhood social, emotional, and physical predictors were explored. METHOD: In a sample of 607 adolescents (Mage = 13.02 years in Grade 7 [SD = 0.38]; 54.4% girls; 76.4% White) self-rated bullying perpetration and parent-rated hypercompetitiveness were assessed across six years of development (Grades 7 to 12). Childhood (i.e., Grades 5 and 6) social, emotional, and physical predictors of trajectory group membership were also examined. RESULTS: Using latent class growth analyses, the three expected joint trajectory groups of primary interest were found: (1) a pattern of moderate stable bullying perpetration and high increasing hypercompetitiveness (high-risk group), (2) a pattern of low decreasing bullying and high increasing hypercompetitiveness (hypercompetitive only group), and (3) a pattern of low decreasing bullying and low stable hypercompetitiveness (low-risk group). Adolescents reflecting the high-risk joint trajectory pattern were differentiated from adolescents reflecting the other two trajectory patterns by having more adverse childhood social, emotional, and physical predictors. CONCLUSIONS: Findings indicate that bullying is a developmental and context-dependent behavior that can reflect trait hypercompetitiveness. Bullying prevention efforts should focus on reducing emphasis on outcompeting peers and instead facilitate a sense of self-acceptance, awareness, and accomplishment within prosocial school and family environments.
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