Objective To assess the relationship between bullying peers as a child and adult intimate partner violence perpetration in a clinic-based sample of adult men. School bullying perpetration and intimate partner violence perpetration are both thought to stem from desire for power and control over others.
Design A cross-sectional survey was conducted between January 2005 and December 2006.
Setting Three urban community health centers in Boston, Massachusetts.
Participants Men aged 18 to 35 years (n = 1491) seeking services at participating community health centers.
Main Exposure School bullying perpetration.
Outcome Measure Past-year physical or sexual violence perpetration against a female partner (intimate-partner violence [IPV]).
Results Two-fifths of men reported perpetrating school bullying as a child (n = 610; 40.9%). Men who rarely bullied in school were 1.53 times more likely to perpetrate past-year IPV than men who did not bully (95% confidence interval [CI], 1.02-2.29); this risk was elevated to 3.82 times more likely to perpetrate any past-year IPV for those men who bullied peers frequently (95% CI, 2.55-5.73).
Conclusions The present study indicates that bullying peers in school as a child, especially frequent bullying perpetration, is associated with increased risk for men's perpetration of IPV as an adult. The effect remains strong after controlling for common prior risk factors for both bullying and IPV perpetration. Future research is needed to discern the mechanisms and underlying root causes of abusive behavior, such as power and control, as a means to prevent violence perpetration across settings and life stages.