This exploratory study investigated how exposure to bullying at school in middle childhood is associated with student anxiety levels and adrenocortical activity at a time preceding lunch when anxiety about potential bullying would potentially be higher. Ninety-one sixth-grade students (55 female and 36 male) reported being exposed one or more times to repetitive peer abuse as victims and/or bystanders, and the Multidimensional Anxiety Scale for Children (MASC) provided a measure of general anxiety levels. Students' degree of exposure to bullying and their anxiety levels were compared to salivary cortisol indicating a stress reaction of the body via hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) activity. Analysis confirmed the hypothesis that bullying exposure had an influence on levels of cortisol, but only through its relationship with general anxiety. The amount of combined bullying exposure from victimization and bystanding was related to lower cortisol levels at a time when the potential for bullying was about to increase.
- Bullying exposure
- HPA axis