The relations between bullying exposures in middle childhood, anxiety, and adrenocortical activity

Jo Lynn V. Carney, Richard J. Hazler, Insoo Oh, Leah C. Hibel, Douglas A. Granger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)194-211
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of School Violence
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2010

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Received September 8, 2008; accepted November 11, 2009. This research was supported by the Child Youth and Families Consortium and College of Education at Pennsylvania State University. Address correspondence to JoLynn V. Carney, Counselor Education, Pennsylvania State University, 327 CEDAR Building, University Park, PA 16802, USA. E-mail:


  • Anxiety
  • Bullying exposure
  • Cortisol
  • HPA axis


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