Peer victimization

Scale: University of Illinois Victimization Scale – Peer Victimization items

What it measures:

  • A youth’s level of overt victimization from peers over the last 30 days.

Intended age range: 8- to 18-year-olds.

Brief description: This measure consists of 4 items. Sample items include: “Other students picked on me” and “I got hit and pushed by other students.” Response options are Never, 1-2 times, 3-4 times, 5-6 times, or 7 or more times.

Rationale: This scale was selected because it is brief, has evidence of reliability and validity, and provides information on the frequency of peer victimization over a specified period of time.

Cautions: This measure does not assess relational peer victimization⎯a form of peer victimization aimed at damaging children’s social relationships or reputation. Although overt and relational peer victimization tend to be correlated, available research suggests value in distinguishing between these forms of victimization. There is some evidence, for example, suggesting that levels of overt and relational victimization vary by gender and are related differently to other psychosocial outcomes.

Special administration information: Care should be taken to ensure that youth understand that they are reporting on the frequency with which acts of peer victimization happened to them over the last 30 days.

How to score: Each item is scored on a 5-point scale from 1 (Never) to 5 (7 or more times). A total score is obtained by averaging scores across all items. Item scores have also been used to classify children as victims or non-victims. Children who score 2 (“1-2 times”) or higher on more than 2 items are classified as “victims”; those who do not are classified as “non-victims.”

How to interpret findings: Based on past research classifying children as victims or non-victims, children whose total score (their average across items) is greater than 2 (corresponding to a response choice of 1-2 times are often considered "repeated victims." The developers of the measure have similarly used a cut-off score of 1.5 to classify children as victims (1.5 or above) or non-victims (lower than 1.5).

Access and permissions: Illinois Victimization Scale is available for non-commercial use with no charge here (the peer victimization items are items 4, 5, 6, and 7).

Alternatives: The Social Experiences Questionnaire (SEQ) is a good alternative for those interested in measuring relational victimization. The SEQ is a 15 item measure with 3 subscales assessing overt victimization (5 items), relational victimization (5 items), and receipt of prosocial acts (5 items). This measure shows good reliability and validity and there is support for use in diverse samples (e.g., German, Chinese, and Mexican-American youth). Additional information on this scale is available here.

Citation: Espelage, D. L., & Holt, M. K., (2001). Bullying and victimization during early adolescence, Journal of Emotional Abuse, 2, 123–142.

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