Examining Pathways between Bully Victimization, Depression, & School Belonging Among Early Adolescents
The relationship between bully victimization and depression has been examined extensively with prior research showing long-term cascade of problems stemming from both exposure to victimization and depressive symptomology. However, prior research has failed to consider how protective factors may mitigate these long-term problems. Three theoretical models were tested: the interpersonal risk model, symptom driven model, and transactional model.
The present study employs a novel statistical technique to explore longitudinal reciprocal associations among bullying, depression, and school belonging in a sample of 2177 middle school students (ages 11 to 15) in a Midwestern state. We used a model building process to explore the overall association between bully victimization, depression, and school belonging as well as a multi-group model in which models were estimated for boys and girls, separately.
In our overall model, results indicated support for both symptom driven and interpersonal risk models. However, we did not find any significant buffering effect of school belonging. In our multi-group model, we found support for a buffering effect of school belonging for girls, but not boys. School belonging buffered long term problems associated with experiences of bully victimization via reductions in depression.
Our findings point to the broader concept of school structure being differentially supportive and protective for various demographic groups and the need to consider the entire social ecology of a school when planning and implementing prevention interventions.
KeywordsInternalizing symptoms Major Depressive Disorder Victimization Abuse Longitudinal
JPD: designed and executed the study, performed data analysis, interpreted the results, and wrote the paper; GJM: assisted in interpretation of results, collaborated in writing of the results section; KMI: collaborated in the design and writing of the manuscript; DLE: assisted in design of the study, collaborated in writing and editing of the manuscript; AV: collaborated in the writing and editing of the final manuscript; and AJE: collaborated in the writing and editing of the final manuscript.
Data in this manuscript were drawn from a grant from the CDC (1U01/CE001677) to Dorothy Espelage (PI).
Compliance with ethical standards
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study. IRB approval was secured at the University of Illinois.
- Ahrnsbrak, R., Bose, J., Hedden, S. L., Lipari, R. N., & Park-Lee, E. (2017). Key substance use and mental health indicators in the United States: Results from the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Rockville, MD: Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/NSDUH-FFR1-2016/NSDUH-FFR1-2016.htm.
- Cairns, K. E., Yap, M. B. H., Pilkington, P. D., & Jorm, A. F. (2014). Risk and protective factors for depression that adolescents can modify: a systematic review and meta-analysis of longitudinal studies. Journal of Affective Disorders, 169, 61–75. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jad.2014.08.006.Google Scholar
- Cole, D. A., Dukewich, T. L., Roeder, K., Sinclair, K. R., McMillan, J., Will, E., Bilsky, S. A., Martin, N. C., & Felton, J. W. (2014). Linking peer victimization to the development of depressive self-schemas in children and adolescents. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 42(1), 149–160. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10802-013-9769-1.Google Scholar
- Copeland, W. E., Wolke, D., Lereya, S. T., Shanahan, L., Worthman, C., & Costello, E. J. (2014). Childhood bullying involvement predicts low-grade systemic inflammation into adulthood. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 111, 7570–7575. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1323641111.Google Scholar
- Curran, P. J., Howard, A. L., Bainter, S. A., Lane, S. T., & McGinley, J. S. (2014). The Separation of between-person and within-person components of individual change over time: A latent curve model with structured residuals. Journal of Clinical and Consulting Psychology, 82, 879–894. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0035297.Google Scholar
- Davis, J. P., Dumas, T. M., Merrin, G. J., Espelage, D. L., Tan, K., Madden, D., & Hong, J. S. (2018). Examining the pathways between bully victimization, depression, academic achievement, and problematic drinking in adolescence. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 32(6), 605–616. https://doi.org/10.1037/adb0000394.Google Scholar
- Eisenberg, M. E., Neumark-Sztainer, D., & Perry, C. L. (2003). Peer harassment, school connectedness, and academic achievement. Journal of School Health, 73, 311–316. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1746-1561.2003.tb06588.x.Google Scholar
- Elmelid, A., Stickley, A., Lindblad, F., Schwab-Stone, M., Henrich, C. C., & Ruchkin, V. (2015). Depressive symptoms, anxiety and academic motivation in youth: Do schools and families make a difference? Journal of Adolescence, 45, 174–182. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.adolescence.2015.08.003.Google Scholar
- Espelage, D., & Hong, J. (2019). Children Who Bully or Are Bullied. In: T. H. Ollendick, S. W. White, B. A. White, (eds.) The Oxford Handbook of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Espelage, D. L., Van Ryzin, M., Low, S., & Polanin, J. (2015). Clinical trial of Second Step© middle-school Program: Impact on bullying, cyberbullying, homophobic teasing & sexual harassment perpetration. School Psychology Review, 44(4), 464–479. https://doi.org/10.17105/spr-15-0052.1.Google Scholar
- Feingold, A. (1994). Gender differences in personality: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 116(3), 429–456.Google Scholar
- Frey, K. S., Newman, J. B., Nolen, S. B., & Hirchstein, M. K. (2010). Reducing bullying and contributing behavior: Addressing transactional relationships within the school social ecology. In S. R. Jimerson, A. B. Nickerson, M. J. Mayer & M. J. Furlong (Eds.), The handbook of school violence and school safety: International research and practice (pp. 383–395). New York, NY: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Goodenow, C. (1993b). The Psychological sense of school membership among adolescents: Scale development and educational correlates. Psychology in the Schools, 30, 79–90.Google Scholar
- Gottfredson, G. D., Gottfredson, D. C., Payne, A. A., & Gottfredson, N. C. (2005). School climate predictors of school disorder: Results from a national study of delinquency prevention in schools. Journal of Research in Crimean and Delinquency, 42(4), 412–444. https://doi.org/10.1177/0022427804271931.Google Scholar
- Hoffman, L. (2015). Longitudinal analysis: Modeling within-person fluctuation and change. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Klomek, A. B., Sourander, A., Niemelä, S., Kumpulainen, K., Piha, J., Tamminen, T., Almqvist, F., & Gould, M. S. (2009). Childhood bullying behaviors as a risk for suicide attempts and completed suicides: a population-based birth cohort study. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 48(3), 254–261. https://doi.org/10.1097/chi.0b013e318196b91f.Google Scholar
- Kochel, K. P., Bagwell, C. L., Ladd, G. W., & Rudolph, K. D. (2017). Do positive peer relations mitigate transactions between depressive symptoms and peer victimization in adolescence? Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 51, 44–54.Google Scholar
- Krygsman, A.L., & Vaillancourt, T. (2018). Peer Victimization and Depression Symptoms: The Moderating Role of Gender Non-normative Aggression and School Transition. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 1–12. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-018-1119-z.
- Merrin, G. J., Davis, J. P., Berry, D., D’Amico, E. J., & Dumas, T. M. (2016). The longitudinal associations between substance use, crime, and social risk among emerging adults: a longitudinal within and between-person latent variables analysis. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 165, 71–78. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2016.05.009.Google Scholar
- Mirowsky, J., & RossC. E.. (1995). Sex differences in distress: Real or artifact?. American Sociological Review, 60, 449–468.Google Scholar
- Musu-Gillette, L, Zhang, A, Wang, K, Zhang, J., & Oudekerk, B. A. (2017). Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2016 (NCES 2017-064/NCJ 250650). Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Department of Education, and Bureau of Justice Statistics, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice.Google Scholar
- Muthén, L. K. and Muthén, B. O. (1998–2017). Mplus User’s Guide. Eighth Edition. Los Angeles, CA: Muthén & Muthén.Google Scholar
- Niemelä, S., Brunstein-Klomek, A., Sillanmäki, L., Helenius, H., Piha, J., Kumpulainen, K., & Sourander, A. (2011). Childhood bullying behaviors at age eight and substance use at age 18 among males. A nationwide prospective study. Addictive Behaviors, 36(3), 256–260. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.addbeh.2010.10.012.Google Scholar
- Oliffe, J. L., Kelly, M. T., Bottorff, J. L., Johnson, J. L., & Wong, S. T. (2017). “He’s more typically female because he’s not afraid to cry”: Connecting heterosexual gender relations and men’s depression. Psychology of Gender and Health, 177–197.Google Scholar
- Orpinas, P. (1993). Modified Depression Scale. Houston, TX: University of Texas, Houston.Google Scholar
- Patton, G. C., Olsson, C., Bond, L., Toumbourou, J. W., Carlin, J. B., Hemphill, S. A., & Catalano, R. F. (2008). Predicting female depression across puberty: A two-nation longitudinal study. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 47(12), 1424–1432. https://doi.org/10.1097/chi.0b013e3181886ebe.Google Scholar
- Rothon, C., Head, J., Klineberg, E., & Stansfeld, S. (2011). Can social support protect bullied adolescents from adverse outcomes? A prospective study on the effects of bullying on the educational achievement and mental health of adolescents at secondary schools in East London. Journal of Adolescence, 34(3), 579–588. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.adolescence.2010.02.007.Google Scholar
- Schwartz, D., Lansford, J. E., Dodge, K. A., Pettit, G. S., & Bates, J. E. (2015). Peer victimization during middle childhood as a lead indicator of internalizing problems and diagnostic outcomes in late adolescence. Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology, 44(3), 393–404. https://doi.org/10.1080/15374416.2014.881293.Google Scholar
- Selig, J. P., & Little, T. D. (2012). Autoregressive and cross-lagged panel analysis for longitudinal data. In B. Laursen, T. D. Little & N. A. Card (Eds.), Handbook of developmental research methods (pp. 265–278). New York, NY, US: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
- Sentse, M., Prinzie, P., & Salmivalli, C. (2017). Testing the direction of longitudinal paths between victimization, peer rejection, and different types of internalizing problems in adolescence. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 45(5), 1013–1023. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10802-016-0216-y.Google Scholar
- Thapa, A., Cohen, J., Guffey, S., & Higgins-D’Alessandro, A. (2013). A review of school climate research.Review of Educational Research, 83(3), 357–385.Google Scholar
- Ttofi, M. M., Farrington, D. P., Lösel, F., & Loeber, R. (2011). Do the victims of school bullies tend to become depressed later in life? A systematic review and meta-analysis of longitudinal studies. Journal of Aggression, Conflict and Peace Research, 3(2), 63–73. https://doi.org/10.1108/17596591111132873.Google Scholar
- Vaillancourt, T., Brittain, H. L., McDougall, P., & Duku, E. (2013). Longitudinal links between childhood peer victimization, internalizing and externalizing problems, and academic functioning: developmental cascades. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 41, 1203–1215. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10802-013-9781-5.Google Scholar
- Wang, W., Vaillancourt, T., Brittain, H. L., McDougall, P., Krygsman, A., Smith, D., Cunningham, C., Haltigan, J., & Hymel, S. (2014). School climate, peer victimization, and academic achievement: Results from a multi-informant study. School Psychology Quarterly, 29(3), 360–377. https://doi.org/10.1037/spq0000084.Google Scholar
- Wilson, D. (2004). The interface of school climate and school connectedness and relationships with aggression and victimization. Journal of School Health, 74, 293–399. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1746-1561.2004.tb08286.x.Google Scholar