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School Violence in China: A Multilevel Analysis of Student Victimization in Rural Middle Schools

Research in the Sociology of Education

ISBN: 978-1-78769-078-3, eISBN: 978-1-78769-077-6

ISSN: 1479-3539

Publication date: 30 October 2018


Physical victimization at school is little studied in impoverished developing country contexts. Moreover, the role of school and classroom contexts as risk factors remains poorly understood.

The aim of the study is to investigate the prevalence of physical victimization in rural Chinese middle schools as well as the individual, teacher/classroom, and school-level risk factors associated with experiencing physical victimization.

We use two waves of longitudinal, representative survey data to perform a multilevel logistic regression analysis (MLRA) of physical victimization among middle school students from 100 villages in one of China’s poorest provinces. We focus on a subset of questionnaire items that were gathered from students when the sampled children were 13–16 years old. We also utilize student data from the first wave of the survey to control for prior internalizing problems and academic achievement. Finally, we link matched data collected from principal and teacher questionnaires to examine the risk factors for physical victimization associated with students’ microclimates and the wider school environment.

A substantial proportion of middle school students (40%) reported having been beaten by classmates. Elevated risk was found among males; students with prior poor performance in language; students with past internalizing problems; students of female teachers and teachers evaluated as low performing; students in disruptive classrooms; and students in classrooms undergoing mandated reforms.

These findings suggest that efforts to reduce school violence should not only focus on the deficits of individual students, but rather should target practices to alter the within school risk factors associated with microclimates.




The Gansu Survey of Children and Families was supported by a grant from the United Kingdom Economic and Social Research Council and Department for International Development (ESRC RES-167-25-0250). Earlier support for data collection came from The Spencer Foundation Small and Major Grants Programs, The World Bank, and NIH Grants 1R01TW005930-01 and 5R01TW005930-02.


Adams, J. and Hannum, E. (2018), "School Violence in China: A Multilevel Analysis of Student Victimization in Rural Middle Schools", Research in the Sociology of Education (Research in the Sociology of Education, Vol. 20), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 41-69.



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