Telling an Adult at School about Bullying: Subsequent Victimization and Internalizing Problems
- 215 Downloads
Bullied students are at increased risk of internalizing problems. Many school bullying-prevention programs encourage targets of bullying to seek help from an adult at school. However, few students report victimization to school staff, and reports do not always result in positive outcomes for the victimized student. This study aimed to understand factors associated with students telling an adult at school about experienced victimization, and victimization and internalizing problems a year after taking this action.
Students in Grade 7–9 (mean age 13 years) in 12 schools completed online surveys in 2015 (T1). Data from the victimized students (n = 316) were analyzed to determine factors associated with speaking with school staff about their experience. The Grade 7–8 students were surveyed again in 2016 (T2) and matched data on 101 students victimized at T1 used to compare the longer-term internalizing problems and victimization outcomes for students who spoke with staff.
Victimization status and level of internalizing problems at T2 of students bullied at T1 were associated with telling an adult at T1, and these associations were moderated by severity of T1 victimization. For students more severely victimized at T1, speaking with a staff member was associated with increased odds of continued victimization at T2, but fewer internalizing problems when compared to those who did not tell.
To prevent persistent victimization, schools and teachers need to be better equipped to respond effectively when a student first becomes a target of bullying, and discourage ongoing perpetrator behavior.
KeywordsBullying victimization Mental health Internalizing problems Help-seeking School
T.S.: collaborated in the conceptualization of the study, conducted the data analyses, wrote sections of and edited the manuscript. M.C.: contributed to the literature review and discussion. J.E.: collaborated in the conceptualization of the study, conducted data analyses, and wrote first drafts of the literature review and methods. K.R.: Directed the larger study from which these data derived; collaborated on the design, writing, and editing of the mauscript. C.S.: collaborated with the design and writing of the manuscript. D.C.: conceptualized the larger study from which these data derived and collaborated in the writing and editing of the final manuscript.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of Interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
Ethics approval was received from the University of Western Australia and Edith Cowan University, the State Department of Education and the Catholic Education office, and schools. 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.
Government schools required written informed parental (opt-in) consent; non-government schools permitted informed opt-out consent from parents for student survey completion.
- Blomqvist, K., Saarento, S., & Salmivalli, C. (2019). Telling adults about one’s plight as a victim of bullying: student- and context-related factors predicting disclosure. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, https://doi.org/10.1111/sjop.12521. (in press).
- Boulton, M. J., Boulton, L., Down, J., Sanders, J., & Craddock, H. (2017). Perceived barriers that prevent high school students seeking help from teachers for bullying and their effects on disclosure intentions. Journal of Adolescence, 56, 40–51. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.adolescence.2016.11.009.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Bradshaw, C. P., Sawyer, A. L., & O’Brennan, L. M. (2007). Bullying and peer victimization at school: perceptual differences between students and school staff. School Psychology Review, 36(3), 361–382.Google Scholar
- Compas, B. E., Connor-Smith, J. K., Saltzman, H., Thomsen, A. H., & Wadsworth, M. E. (2001). Coping with stress during childhood and adolescence: problems, progress, and potential in theory and research. Psychological Bulletin, 127(1), 87–127. https://doi.org/10.1037/0033-2909.127.1.87.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Cowie, H. (2000). Bystanding or standing by: gender issues in coping with bullying in English schools. Aggressive Behavior, 26(1), 85–97. https://doi.org/10.1002/(SICI)1098-2337(2000)26:1<85::AID-AB7>3.0.CO;2-5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Davidson, L. M., & Demaray, M. K. (2007). Social support as a moderator between victimization and internalizing-externalizing distress from bullying. School Psychology Review, 36(3), 383–405.Google Scholar
- Houghton, S. J., Nathan, E., & Taylor, M. (2012). To bully or not to bully, that is not the question: Western Australian early adolescents’ in search of a reputation. Journal of Adolescent Research, 27(4), 498–522. https://doi.org/10.1177/0743558411432638.
- Hunter, S. C., Boyle, J. M. E., & Warden, D. (2004). Help seeking amongst child and adolescent victims of peer-aggression and bullying: the influence of school-stage, gender, victimisation, appraisal, and emotion. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 74(3), 375–390. https://doi.org/10.1348/0007099041552378.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Kochenderfer-Ladd, B., & Pelletier, M. E. (2008). Teachers’ views and beliefs about bullying: influences on classroom management strategies and students’ coping with peer victimization. Journal of School Psychology, 46(4), 431–453. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jsp.2007.07.005.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Ladd, G. W., Kochenderfer, B. J., & Coleman, C. C. (1996). Friendship quality as a predictor of young children’s early school adjustment. Child Development, 67(3), 1103–1118. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8624.1996.tb01785.x.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Lovibond, S., & Lovibond, P. (1995). Manual for the depression anxiety stress scales. 2nd ed Sydney: Psychology Foundation of Australia.Google Scholar
- Nelson, H. J., Burns, S. K., Kendall, G. E., & Schonert-Reichl, K. A. (2018). The factors that influence and protect against power imbalance in covert bullying among preadolescent children at school: a thematic analysis. The Journal of School Nursing, 34(4), 281–291. https://doi.org/10.1177/1059840517748417.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Petrosino, A., Guckenburg, S., DeVoe, J., & Hanson, T. (2010). What characteristics of bullying, bullying victims, and schools are associated with increased reporting of bullying to school officials?. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Educational Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Regional Educational Laboratory Northeast and Islands. Vol. Issues & Answers. REL 2010-No. 092.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Riley, F., Wright, M., Bokszczanin, A., & Essau, C.A. (2017). Poly-victimization in Polish adolescents: risk factors and the moderating role of coping. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 1–24. https://doi.org/10.1177/0886260517696868.
- Schultze-Krumbholz, A., & Scheithauer, H. (2009). Measuring cyberbullying and cybervictimization by using behavioral categories—The Berlin Cyberbullying Cybervictimization Questionnaire (BCyQ). Paper presented at the post conference workshop “COST ACTION IS0801: Cyberbullying: coping with negative and enhancing positive uses of new technologies, in relationships in educational settings”, Vilnius, 22–23 August.Google Scholar
- Shaw, T., Dooley, J. J., Cross, D., Zubrick, S. R., & Waters, S. (2013). The Forms of Bullying Scale (FBS): Validity and reliability estimates for a measure of bullying victimization and perpetration in adolescence. Psychological Assessment, 25(4), 1045–1057. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0032955.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Veenstra, R., Lindenberg, S., Huitsing, G., Sainio, M., & Salmivalli, C. (2014). The role of teachers in bullying: the relation between antibullying attitudes, efficacy, and efforts to reduce bullying. Journal of Educational Psychology, 106(4), 1135–1143. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0036110.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Yeager, D. S., Fong, C. J., Lee, H. Y., & Espelage, D. L. (2015). Declines in efficacy of anti-bullying programs among older adolescents: theory and a three-level meta-analysis. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 37, 36–51. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appdev.2014.11.005.CrossRefGoogle Scholar