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Are Children of Welfare Recipients at a Heightened Risk of Bullying and Peer Victimization?

Abstract

Background

Children who come from families on welfare or government assistance might be at risk for bullying involvement. As research has shown, children living in poverty and experiencing family economic hardship are significantly likely to be involved in bullying in school.

Objective

This study investigates whether welfare assistance is associated with children’s bullying victimization and perpetration, controlling for the covariates including mother (educational level, marital status, employment status, perceived parenting) and child (sex, age, race/ethnicity) characteristics. The study also explores whether various kinds of welfare assistance programs, such as Medicaid, Cash Assistance, SNAP, free/reduced breakfasts or lunches at school and the WIC program are independently associated with children’s bullying victimization and perpetration, controlling for the covariates.

Method

Participants were 15,010 caregivers of children, ages 6–11 years, who completed the National Survey of Children’s Health (NSCH).

Results

Results suggest that children receiving welfare assistance were more likely to be victims and perpetrators of bullying than children not on assistance. All of the welfare assistance variables were associated with increased odds of bullying perpetration, and three out of five welfare assistance programs—Medicaid, SNAP, and free/reduced breakfasts or lunches at school were statistically significantly associated with increased odds of bullying victimization.

Conclusion

Children in families receiving welfare assistance appear to be at an increased risk of being both victims and perpetrators of bullying, which suggests a need for bullying programming for this population.

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Correspondence to Jun Sung Hong.

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Hong, J.S., Choi, J., Espelage, D.L. et al. Are Children of Welfare Recipients at a Heightened Risk of Bullying and Peer Victimization?. Child Youth Care Forum 50, 547–568 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10566-020-09587-w

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Keywords

  • Bullying
  • Children
  • Economic hardship
  • Poverty
  • Public assistance
  • Welfare