Defining Bullying: A Split-Ballot Survey Experiment

Melissa Cidade

Advisor: James Witte, PhD, Department of Sociology and Anthropology

Committee Members: Shannon Davis, Amy Best

Commerce Building II, #3006
April 27, 2017, 10:00 AM to 07:00 AM


A robust literature across disciplines - including education, psychology, and public health - documents the extent of the bullying issue in America’s schools.  However, much of this research simply cannot be compared since each data source uses a different definition of bullying.  To ameliorate the issue of apples-to-oranges comparisons in the rate of bullying victimization, researchers at the Department of Education changed the way they asked about bullying in school on the 2015 collection of the School Crime Supplement to the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) to align with the CDC uniform definition of bullying. To maintain trends over time, the survey included a random assignment split-ballot survey experiment introducing questions aligned to the uniform definition.  Using a social-ecological paradigm of nested social systems, I examine the results of the split-ballot survey experiment and demonstrate that while the bullying victimization estimate drops under the new definition, the new definition does not result in better predictive models.  Ultimately, the project of refining and redefining measurement on bullying victimization is part of a larger social process, in which the production of official statistics is an important part of public discourse and problematizing social behavior.  As such, even though the measures themselves may be imperfect, the process of revisiting operationalizations of social constructs is vital to the revitalization and saliency of important social problems.