Understanding risk-taking behavior in bullies, victims, and bully victims using cognitive- and emotion-focused approaches

Kei Yan POON

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlespeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


Bullying and risky behavior are two common problems among adolescents and can strongly affect a youth’s overall functioning when both coexist. Some studies suggest that bullying in adolescence may promote risky behavior as a coping strategy to deal with victimization related stress. Other studies consider bullying as an outcome of high-risk behavior. Despite the association between the two is well-established, no study has examined the risk-taking patterns among bullying groups (i.e., bully, victim, and bully victim). This study attempted to elucidate the potential relationships between bullying and risk-taking by addressing the two models: a cognitive-focused model and an emotion-focused model of risk taking, and to clarify how adolescents’ characteristics in risk taking associate with bullying outcomes. Method: 136 Chinese adolescents (Mean Age = 14.5, M = 65, F = 71) were recruited and grouped according to bullying identity: Bully (n = 27), Victim (n = 20), Bully victim (n = 37) and Control (n = 52). Cognitive Appraisal of Risky Events (CARE) questionnaire was used to measure participants’ expectancies about the risks, benefits and involvement associated with risky activities. Cambridge Gambling Task (CGT) was administered to capture the emotion-laden process in risk taking. Results: Cognitively, Bully was associated with an overestimation of risk while Victim was associated with an underestimation of risk and overrated benefit. Bully victim exhibited a unique pattern with an overestimation of benefit and risk. All study groups projected higher involvement in risky behavior. Behaviorally, both Bully and Bully victim were associated with high risk modulation whereas Victim was associated with impulsive decision-making. Interestingly, compared with bully, bully victim had significantly higher bullying scores, suggesting a wider range and more frequent bullying activities. In conclusion, Bully maybe a group of adolescents that is vigilant in situational deliberation and risk modulation while Victims with high impulsivity, are more likely to place themselves in risky situations. Bully victims presented the combined pattern of the two pure groups and associated with the highest risk-taking propensity. Better picture of risk taking pattern associated with different groups was illustrated, allowing better matching for future prevention and intervention program for distinct bullying individuals. Copyright © 2016 Poon.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1838
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2016


Poon, K. (2016). Understanding risk-taking behavior in bullies, victims, and bully victims using cognitive- and emotion-focused approaches. Frontiers in Psychology, 7. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2016.01838


  • Risk assessment
  • Bullying
  • Adolescents
  • Peer victimization
  • Risk taking


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