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Contextual Influences on Bullying Involvement and Relations between Bullying and Other Victimization Form

Summary: This project's aim is to evaluate bullying and other victimization forms across the transition from elementary to middle school. By focusing on this time period we will be able to assess profiles of bullies and victims prior to the emergence of more serious, potentially long-term psychosocial effects; in turn, this will inform prevention and intervention efforts. Further, this research will provide an enhanced perspective on which individual and contextual factors are associated with decreases in bullying perpetration and victimization from elementary to middle school. These factors could then be addressed in prevention programming as an initial step in breaking the documented link between bullying involvement and deleterious outcomes in adulthood.

Background

Bullying is a pervasive problem in United States' schools today, affecting nearly all school-age youth in some capacity. Despite a growing body of research on bullying among elementary and middle school students, however, to date few studies have systematically explored associations between bullying and a comprehensive range of other forms of victimization. Such research is essential if we are to better understand both the cumulative effects of victimization experiences and the unique effects of singular forms of victimization. In addition, there is a paucity of research examining factors affecting bullying and victimization trajectories over time, yet evidence supports the heterogeneous nature of these experiences. Finally, little research has been devoted to evaluating the extent to which bullies and victims are in contact with law enforcement and other professionals, and the degree to which such involvement mitigates deleterious outcomes.

As such, this project will evaluate bullying and other victimization forms across the transition from elementary to middle school. This is a developmentally important time period characterized by increases in aggression, decreases in areas such as self-esteem, and changing peer groups. By focusing on this time period we will be able to assess profiles of bullies and victims prior to the emergence of more serious, potentially long-term psychosocial effects; in turn, this will inform prevention and intervention efforts.

Goals and Objectives

Methodology

This project is a 2-year longitudinal study. A cohort of approximately 700 ethnically diverse 5th grade students from one school district completed self-report surveys in spring 2005. Parents/caretakers were asked to return consent forms if they did not want their child to participate. Students were also asked for their assent to participate. In addition, students’ teachers and parents completed surveys at this time to allow for a multi-informant approach. A second wave of surveys will be completed in spring 2006 when this cohort of students is in the 6th grade.

Student surveys inquired about: bullying perpetration and victimization behaviors; attitudes toward bullying; familial and community victimization history (e.g., child maltreatment; conventional crime victimization), psychosocial functioning; and contacts with law enforcement and counselors. Teacher surveys included questions about: attitudes toward bullying; bullying behaviors among students; and teacher training on bullying. Parent/caretaker surveys inquired about: parental attitudes toward bullying; awareness of their child’s involvement in bullying; awareness of bullying problems at their child's school; and their child’s psychosocial functioning.

Raffles were held in each classroom and one child per classroom won a $10 gift certificate. All students were given information about counseling resources. Parents and teachers who completed surveys received $20.

The University of New Hampshire Institutional Review Board approved this study and the project conforms to rules mandated by research projects funded by the Department of Justice.

Data Analysis

Analysis of these data is on-going.
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