Scale: Modified Aggression Scale (MAS) — Bullying subscale

What it measures:

  • A youth’s level of bullying behavior.

Intended age range: 11- to 14-year-olds; the items appear applicable to older adolescents as well.

Brief description: This measure consists of 5 items, each referring to aggressive behavior. Youth are asked to report how many times in the last month they’ve engaged in each behavior. Sample items include: “I called other students names,” “I pushed, shoved, slapped, or kicked other students,” and “I threatened to hit or hurt another student.” Response options are Never, 1-2 times, 3-4 times, or 5 or more times.

Rationale: Several developmentally appropriate measures of aggression exist for children and adolescents. The Bullying subscale of the MAS was selected because of its brevity, developmental applicability, evidence of reliability and validity, and assessment of both physical and verbal overt aggression.

Cautions: The Bullying subscale of the MAS does not assess relational aggression (i.e., harm is caused by damaging someone’s relationships or social status). Although overt and relational aggression are highly correlated, available evidence suggests there is utility in distinguishing between these and other forms of aggressive behavior. In addition, this measure does not distinguish between reactive and proactive/instrumental aggression, which research indicates have different functions and predict different social, emotional, and behavioral outcomes. In addition, those interested in assessing child aggression through a self-report measure should consider the characteristics of youth involved in their assessment. There is some evidence to suggest that certain children (e.g., those with ADHD) tend to underreport their level of aggression.

Special administration information: None.

How to score: Each item is scored on a 4-point scale from 0 (None) to 3 (5 or more times). The total score is derived by summing across the items.

How to interpret findings: Higher scores reflect a higher frequency of self-reported bullying behavior.

Access and permissions: The measure is available for non-commercial use with no charge and is made available here.

Alternatives: The 36-item Forms and Functions of Aggression (FFA) measure is a good alternative for those who are interested in a more in-depth assessment of aggression that distinguishes between overt, relational, proactive, and reactive forms of aggression. Sample items include: “When I’m hurt by someone, I often fight back” (reactive), “I often tell my friends to stop liking someone to get what I want” (relational), and “I often start fights to get what I want” (proactive).

Citation: Bosworth, K., Espelage, D. L., & Simon, T. R. (1999). Factors associated with bullying in middle school. Journal of Early Adolescence, 19, 341–362.

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