Date of Award

Fall 11-20-2013

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

DR. CHRISTOPHER C. HENRICH

Second Advisor

DR. GABRIEL KUPERMINC

Third Advisor

DR. ERIN TULLY

Fourth Advisor

DR. JOEL MEYERS

Abstract

This study sought to examine two gaps in the field of bullying research – (1) the lack of clear cut theoretical underpinnings and frameworks for examining the process of bullying and (2) oversight of the parent context in studies on bullying. This two-study dissertation examined the role of parents in understanding bullying, victimization and bystander behaviors using Belsky’s parenting process model (1984) as a potential guiding framework. Study 1 relied on secondary analysis with three waves of longitudinal data from the NICHD Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development to test the indirect effect of maternal depressive symptoms on bullying and victimization through mother-child relationship quality. Findings indicated that there was a small direct effect of maternal depressive symptoms at grade 3 on peer victimization at grade 5, but not bullying. Mother–child relationship quality at grade 5 negatively predicted bullying behaviors at grade 6, but not peer victimization. There were also small effects of bullying behaviors at grade 5 on increased maternal depressive symptoms and decreased mother-child relationship quality at grade 6. There were no significant indirect effects. Study 2, a cross-sectional study of N = 143 fourth and fifth graders and their parents, hypothesized indirect effects of parent’s general and specific self-efficacy related to bullying, peer victimization and bystander behaviors through parental monitoring and supervision. Parents’ self-efficacy beliefs related to knowledge of their children being victimized, and what to do about the victimization reports was directly and negatively associated with a reduction in bullying and victimization behaviors. Efficacy to know what to do was also negatively associated with negative bystander behaviors but positively associated with victimization in school. There were no significant indirect effects. Findings from both studies suggest that the parent context may play a limited role in processes of bullying during upper-elementary school. Secondly, parent functioning (i.e., maternal depressive symptoms, parental self-efficacy related to bullying) may have direct effects on bullying, victimization and bystander behaviors rather than indirectly through parenting as emphasized by Belsky’s model. Other findings, limitations and suggestions for future research and interventions are discussed.

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