Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation




Educational, School, and Counseling Psychology

First Advisor

Dr. Alicia Fedewa


Bullying is a universal problem affecting the emotional, social, and physical wellbeing of school-age children worldwide. Individual level correlates of bullying have been well-documented; however, there is limited research identifying variables at the school level which contribute to bullying involvement, especially among high school students. In this dissertation, school characteristics associated with bullying were investigated using an ecological systems framework.

In the first paper, a comprehensive review of the bullying literature was conducted. Research in the following areas were summarized: definitions of bullying, measures of bullying, individual correlates, influences of cognitive development and social context across age groups, contextual variables (family, school, and community), evidence-based interventions, and bullying from a socio-ecological perspective.

In the second paper, research findings are presented for an original study investigating school level predictors of bullying involvement across Kentucky high schools. The study used aggregated data from a survey of 9th to 12th grade students in 26 high schools across the state, combined with existing school datasets, in order to examine: (1) the prevalence of bullies, victims, and bully-victims across Kentucky high schools and (2) school characteristics associated with elevated rates of bullying involvement. Results revealed important differences in school bullying incident reports and student reports of bullying experiences, as well as unique differences between school environments with high and low rates of bullying involvement. Overall, academic performance and parent involvement were the strongest predictors of bullying involvement at the school level; however, the relationships between these variables and prevalence rates were not as expected. In several analyses, individual level findings from the bullying research did not translate to the school level as hypothesized.

Overall, these findings have important implications for researchers when using multilevel analyses in the school context, when investigating the impact of bullying interventions at the school level, and when investigating how the school environment contributes to bullying. Results also provide important information for schools developing or revising bullying data collection procedures.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)