Author ORCID Identifier

https://orcid.org/0000-0002-2870-4056

Year of Publication

2021

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

College

Social Work

Department/School/Program

Social Work

First Advisor

Dr. Justin “Jay” Miller

Second Advisor

Dr. Shelia Barnhart

Abstract

Bullying is a public health problem that negatively affects millions of children annually and can have serious, long-lasting effects on victims. Emergent research concludes a higher prevalence of bullying occurs in earlier school years, especially among racial/ethnic minorities. Evidence also suggests that risk behaviors associated with bully victimization may vary by racial/ethnic profile, leading to disproportionate chances of adverse psychosocial and health-related behaviors. Therefore, racial/ethnic minority youth may be more likely to cope with being bullied through risk behaviors (e.g., coping by fighting).

Current investigations of racial/ethnic differences in the bullied-risk relationship examine few risk behaviors (i.e., academic performance and mental health). Studies are also limited to cross-sectional analyses and samples of high school students. Thus, they do not adequately represent nor explain the long-term impact of bullying victimization for different racial/ethnic groups of children. It is critical to examine earlier experiences of bullying victimization on later risk behaviors, given social, emotional, cognitive, and physical development is most profound in middle childhood. Moreover, the number of racial and ethnic minority youth under 18 is projected to rise in the forthcoming years. Hence, school systems in America are expected to see an increased presence of these youth. Race/ethnicity has long been a key determinant of health inequities, and because bullied children are targeted given their (perceived) racial/ethnic identity, ascertaining differences across groups is imperative.

Drawing from the General Strain Theory, the Bullying Victimization and Risk Behaviors (BARB) study uses secondary data of an analytic sample of 2,678 children to examine if exposure to earlier experiences of frequent and multiple forms of bullying victimization increases adolescent risks of fighting, physical inactivity, sleep problems, sexual activity, and marijuana use. The BARB study also examines whether Black, White, and Hispanic/Latino children have different or similar adolescent health risk behaviors given earlier experiences of frequent bullying victimization. The BARB study employs path analyses and multigroup path analysis using child and parent self-reported data drawn from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study (FFCWS), a longitudinal birth cohort study, to test the current study research questions.

Findings from the path analyses show support for fighting, physical inactivity, and sleep problem risk behaviors given earlier exposure to frequent bullying victimization. However, multigroup path analysis findings suggest racial/ethnic differences in consequent risk outcomes given earlier exposure to bullying victimization were not statistically significant. Additionally, results suggests that as the number of bullying victimization forms experienced increased, the odds of engaging or developing behavioral and health risk behaviors in adolescence increased.

Middle childhood experiences of frequent and cumulative bullying victimization are more predictive of fighting, physical inactivity, and sleep problems in adolescence, with poly-victimization increasing the threat of additional risks to include marijuana use. Moreover, early experiences of bullying victimization are harmful and pose long-term risks for all youth, regardless of race/ethnicity. Indeed, early assessments and holistic elementary school bullying prevention and intervention efforts are needed to help youth most at-risk effectively deal with bullying and ensure a healthy child development. Implications for clinical and direct practice, programming, policy, and future research are discussed.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

https://doi.org/10.13023/etd.2021.355

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Social Work Commons

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