Impacts of the School Context on Victimization in a Sample of Chinese Adolescents: A Multilevel Approach

Published date01 May 2018
Date01 May 2018
Subject MatterArticles
Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice
2018, Vol. 34(2) 196 –218
© The Author(s) 2018
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DOI: 10.1177/1043986218761964
Impacts of the School Context
on Victimization in a Sample
of Chinese Adolescents: A
Multilevel Approach
Ruohui Zhao1
Although the impacts of the school context on victimization in adolescents are well
researched in Western societies, empirical testing of the contextual impacts are
lacking in China. The present study examines both violent and property victimization
in adolescents in the Chinese setting from a lifestyle/routine activity perspective using
a multilevel approach. These data are collected from a sample of 3,628 high school
students in a southern city of China. The results of a hierarchical logistic regression
model reveal that school contextual variables including school type, level of bonding
to school, and school history are significant predictors of violent victimization while
student-staff ratio is significant in predicting property victimization in adolescents.
At the student level, a higher level of perceived school disorder and delinquency
with friends is related with higher odds of both violent and property victimizations;
bonding to parents and schools tends to reduce the odds of both violent and property
victimizations, net of demographic factors. The results lend support to lifestyle/
routine activity theories. Implications of the findings are highlighted in the section
“Discussion and Conclusion.”
victimization, school contextual factors, Chinese adolescents, lifestyle/routine
1University of Macau, Taipa, China
Corresponding Author:
Ruohui Zhao, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Macau, Avenida da Universidade, Taipa, Macau,
761964CCJXXX10.1177/1043986218761964Journal of Contemporary Criminal JusticeZhao
Zhao 197
The patterns and correlates of victimization have been well examined in relevant
Western literature that identified important factors related to the victimization of ado-
lescents, including both individual factors and contextual elements. For example, at
the individual level, risky lifestyles and low self-control are found to increase the risks
of victimization; conversely, bonding to family and school may reduce such risks
(Lila, Herrero, & Gracia, 2008; Peguero, 2013; Ren, He, Zhao, & Zhang, 2017;
Schreck, Miller, & Gibson, 2003). At the contextual level, exposure to both delin-
quency and crime in the school setting (Bouchard, Wang, & Beauregard, 2012; Lila
et al., 2008; Peguero, 2013; Schreck et al., 2003), and neighborhood elements such as
racial composition (Schreck et al., 2003), exert influence on the likelihood and rate of
victimization. Particularly for adolescents, the school setting plays an especially
important role in their victimization (Bouchard et al., 2012; Lila et al., 2008; Schreck
et al., 2003).
There is a lack of relevant research on this topic in China. Although criminological
research has drawn great attention from both Western scholars and criminologists in
China (Zhang, 2008), it is believed that empirical work is lacking in this area (Hebenton
& Jou, 2013), and remains nascent in its development (Zhuo, Messner, & Zhang,
2008). The limited empirical studies that are available focus on studying crime and
delinquency patterns and related factors (e.g., Friday, Ren, Weitekamp, Kerner, &
Taylor, 2005; Webb, Ren, Zhao, He, & Marshall, 2011; Z. Wei, Homel, Prichard, &
Xu, 2004; Zhang, 2008). Studies on adolescent victimization are lacking (Ren et al.,
2017; Zhuo et al., 2008).
The present study attempts to fill the void by examining victimization of adoles-
cents from both student and school perspectives using a random sample of more than
3,600 students from mainland China. The study may contribute to much needed
research on this subject in three ways.
First, current Western theories have received little empirical validation from other
parts of the world distinctively different from the West, and China in particular (Ren
et al., 2017). Factors unique to the Chinese setting that are strongly associated with
adolescent victimization have not been well identified (Ren et al., 2017). This research
will include variables developed in relevant Western studies and theories, and other
important factors specific to the Chinese context to examine their impacts on adoles-
cent victimization.
Second, Western studies have revealed that victimization of adolescents is closely
associated with the school context, including incidents of violence in schools, school
types, and security measures taken in schools (Crawford & Burns, 2015; Foster &
Brooks-Gunn, 2013). Given the limited research in this specific area, it is imperative
to use a multilevel approach to study adolescent victimization in China.
Third, adolescents are often considered crime-prone and are among the most vulner-
able to victimization (Hamby & Finkelhor, 2001). In fact, early adolescence is a period
of heightened bullying and violent victimization (Foster & Brooks-Gunn, 2013;
Macmillan, 2000). Although China has arguably the world’s largest juvenile population,

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