Theoretical Explanations for Bullying in School: How Ecological Processes Propagate Perpetration and Victimization

Caroline B.R. Evans, Paul R. Smokowski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Bullying is a complex social dynamic that can best be understood by using various theoretical frameworks. The current article uses social capital theory, dominance theory, the theory of humiliation, and organizational culture theory to better understand the motivations behind bullying behavior, bullying’s negative effects on victims, and how school culture and climate play a role in the prevalence of bullying. Specifically, the acquisition and maintenance of social capital and the desire for dominance are prime motivating factors for the initiation and continuation of bullying perpetration. The lack of social capital experienced by victims serves to maintain victims in their current role and prevents them from gaining social status. Further, the domination used by bullies to subjugate victims results in intense humiliation that has lasting negative effects on victims, such as anger and depression. The overall culture and climate of the school setting impacts the prevalence and severity of bullying behavior, highlighting the need for whole school bullying interventions. Implications for social work practice are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)365-375
Number of pages11
JournalChild and Adolescent Social Work Journal
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Bullying
  • Humiliation
  • Theory
  • Trauma
  • Victimization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Social Sciences(all)


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