The study aimed to investigate the relationship between bullying and victimization in school and exposure to inter-parental violence in a nonclinical sample of Italian youngsters.

A cross-sectional study was conducted with a sample of 1059 Italian elementary and middle school students. Participants completed a self-report anonymous questionnaire measuring bullying and victimization and exposure to inter-parental violence. The questionnaire also included measures on parental child abuse and socio-demographic variables.

Almost half of all boys and girls reported different types of bullying and victimization in the previous 3 months, with boys more involved than girls in bullying others. Exposure to inter-parental physical violence and direct bullying were significantly associated especially for girls: girls exposed to father’s violence against the mother and those exposed to mother’s violence against the father were among the most likely to bully directly others compared with girls who had not been exposed to any inter-parental violence. Hierarchical multiple regression analyses revealed that bullying and victimization were predicted by exposure to inter-parental violence, especially mother-to-father violence, over and above age, gender, and child abuse by the father.

Exposure to inter-parental violence is associated with bullying and victimization in school, even after controlling for direct child abuse. Violence within the family has detrimental effects on the child’s behavior; schools, in this regard, can play a fundamental role in early detection of maladjustment.