I.Specific Aims Bullying, or repeated exposure tonegative actions by one or more others (Olweus, 2013), is a pervasive anddeleterious problem around the world, with more than one in five students beingbullied in the US (National Center for Educational Statistics, 2015). It iswidely known that bullying results in negative consequences for children’smental health, many times leading to self-harm and suicide (Holt,Vivolo-Kantor, Polanin, Holland, DeGue, Matjasko, Wolfe et al., 2015). Previousresearch has found that there is a significant negative link between peervictimization and academic achievement (Espelage, Hong, Rao & Low, 2013;Nakotomo & Shwartz, 2010).
However, the relationships between peervictimization, mental health, and academic performance are inconsistent andunclear (Nakomoto & Schwartz, 2010). Less is also known about gender, ageand how different types of victimization may influence the relationship betweenpeer victimization and academic performance (Mundy, Canterford, Kosola,Degenhardt & Patton, 2017; Nakomoto & Schwartz, 2010). The goalof the proposed research is to examine whether mental health (e.g., emotionalproblems), relationship problems and prosocial behaviors, mediates therelationship between peer victimization and academic performance in elementaryand middle school students. In addition, the proposed research will examine howdifferent types of peer victimization (e.
g., physical, verbal, relational,cyber) will influence the mediation. Physical victimization refers to physicalattacks (e.g., hitting, pushing), while verbal refers to verbal attacks (e.
g.,teasing, taunting). Relational victimization includes damage to friendships(e.g.
, rumor spreading) and cyber victimization occurs online or through mobiletechnologies. This study will also examine the moderating roles of gender andage. Figure1 below shows the conceptual model that guides the study, which has threespecific aims:A. Aim 1: Examine the relationship betweenpeer victimization and academic performance in elementary and middle schoolstudents and test whether mental health mediates this relationship. a.Research Question 1: Doesmental health mediate the relationship between peer victimization and academicperformance? Doespeer victimization predict deficits in mental health and academic performance? DW1 B.
Aim 2: Examine the differences betweentypes of victimization (e.g., relational, verbal, physical, cyberDW2 ) and how this might influence therelationship between victimization, mental health, and academic performance. a.Research Question 2:How do different types of peer victimization play a role in the relationshipbetween mental health and academic achievement? Is one more harmful than theothers? Does exposure to multiple types of victimization lead to a morenegative impact on mental health?C. Aim3: Examine themoderating effect of age/grade and gender on the relations between peervictimization, mental health, and academic performance. a.Research Question 3:Do age and gender moderate the relations between peer victimization, mentalhealth, and academic performance? If so, how? Throughthe lens of the self-determination theory, in order to be engaged at schoolacademically, students must be in a state of emotional well-being or feel likethey relate to others (Ryan & Deci, 2000).
Some children who are victimizedby peers do not experience this emotional well-being state, which then putsthem at heightened risk for poor academic performance (Thijs & Verkuyten,2008). Therefore, it is hypothesized that peer victimization will lead todeficits in emotional well-being and a decreased relatedness to others. Inturn, the victimized students will not perform as well academically. There willalso be differences based on type of peer victimization experienced (e.g.,verbal, relational, physical and cyber).
To the author’s knowledge, there is notheory that explains why different types of victimization would lead todifferent outcomes, but some have suggested that relational victimization wouldbe more harmful to academic achievement, because it may be more likely tominimize children’s ability to engage with and learn from peers at school(Buhs, Ladd, & Harold, 2006; Morrow et al., 2014). Additionally, it ishypothesized that a student exposed to multiple types of victimization willresult in lower academic achievement (with reductions in mental health). This isconsistent with the self-determination theory because victimized youthexperience a deficit in emotional well-being or relatedness to others. Genderdifferences have rarely been examined and have shown inconsistencies (Mundy etal., 2017; Morrow et al.
, 2014). Furthermore, less research has focused on age,particularly among 5th and 6th grade students, and whatthe transition to middle school may look like in this relationship. Figure1. Model of the linkbetween peer victimization, mental health and academic performance, with ageand gender as moderating variables. II.
Research Strategy A. Significancea. Importance ofProblem and Barriers Bullyingis a pervasive problem around the world, with more than one out of every five(20.
8%) students reporting being bullied in the United States (National Centerfor Educational Statistics, 2015). Moreover, about 64% of children who werebullied did not report it and therefore this issue largely remains unaddressed(Petrosina, Guckenburg, DeVoe & Hanson, 2010). Students who experiencebullying are at an increased risk for poor school adjustment, sleep difficulties,anxiety, depression and other psychosocial difficulties (Center for DiseaseControl, 2015). Furthermore, a meta-analysis revealed that students who werevictimized by their peers are 2.2 times more likely to have suicidal ideationand 2.6 times more likely to attempt suicide than students who not victimizedby their peers (Gini & Espelage, 2014). Research has documented that there is a negative linkbetween peer victimization and academic achievement (Espelage et al., 2013).
However,there is a lack of overall research on mediators and moderators of thisrelationship (Nakomoto & Schwartz, 2010). Moreover, the relations betweenpeer victimization, mental health, and academic performance is inconsistent andunclear (Nakomoto & Schwartz, 2010). Studies that have examined variablesas mediators of the relationship between peer victimization and academic performancefocused more so on psychological adjustment factors, such as depression,loneliness, and self-esteem (Schwart et al., 2005; Juvonen et al.
, 2000; Thijs& Verkuyten, 2008). However, there is a deficit of research on moreintricate indicators and aspects of mental health, especially in terms ofanxiety, fears, peer relationship problems, attention, conduct problems inaddition to more positive aspects, like prosocial behaviors. As such, there isa paucity of research using the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ)in this relationship, especially when looking at emotional symptoms (whichencompasses depression, anxiety, fears), peer relationship problems in additionto prosocial behaviors. Early adolescence, the ages from roughly 10 to 14 yearsold, can be a very difficult time for youth. Biological (i.e.
, puberty) andcontextual factors (i.e., school transition, relationships, etc.) play a largerole in the psychosocial development of boys and girls in the transition toearly adolescence (Ryan, Shim & Makara, 2013). Physical changes in additionto making and maintaining friendships all the while juggling school performanceand family functioning can be overwhelming. The transition to middle school isa particularly challenging and stressful time for these youth as it is markedby even greater demands and change.
Research has also found difficulties inacademic adjustment, and especially achievement, in this transition (Rudolph,Lambert, Clark & Kurlakowsky, 2001; Ryan et al., 2013). As such, age has been less researched as a moderator inthe relationship between peer victimization and academic performance, especiallywhen looking at the differences between 5th and 6th gradestudents (elementary school and middle school). Because the transition tomiddle school is a difficult time for students, it would be interesting to seehow mental health plays a role in this relationship. To the authors knowledge,no studies have evaluated the difference between elementary school and middleschool students in this relationship. There have also been inconsistencies inthe role gender plays in this process (Mundy et al., 2017). The proposed studywill take gender and age into account as moderating factors in the relationsbetween peer victimization, mental health, and academic performance.
Multipletypes of victimization have rarely been examined, especially in terms of thedifferences between verbal, physical, relational, and cyber victimization. Thisstudy attempts to fill this gap in the research. It is expected that relationaland cyber victimization may be the most harmful to students and their mentalhealth as outlined below. To the author’s knowledge, there is no theory that explainswhy different types of victimization would lead to different outcomes.
However,some have suggested that relational victimization may have more of an impact onacademic performance due to social victimization minimizing children’s abilityand willingness to learn from and engage with peers (Buhs, Ladd & Harold,2006; Morrow et a., 2014). Additionally, it is hypothesized that a studentexposed to multiple types of victimization will experience lower academic achievement(with reductions in mental health) than students exposed to only one (or fewer)types of victimization. This is consistent with the self-determination theory becausevictimized youth experience a deficit in emotional well-being or relatedness toothers. Research has also shown that cyberbullying victimizationhas been linked to mental health problems and even suicide. Furthermore, earlyonset mental health problems may be a risk for later psychiatric problems(Bannink, Broeren, van de Looij-Jansen, de Waart & Raatet, 2016). Cybervictimization may be more harmful to mental health, and in turn hinder academicperformance, because it can be pervasive, anonymous, and repetitive.
Pervasiveness can take the form of being victimized anywhere and anytime due toeasy access to mobile technologies. This platform also makes it easier forperpetrators to be anonymous, which may make them more likely to victimizeothers. In addition, students can be victimized over and over again throughmobile technologies, such as social media sites, which may repeatedly inflictharm on the victim. b. Changes toField: Scientific Knowledge, Clinical Practice, InterventionsThere is a deficit of research on the role mental healthplays and how it has been measured in the link between peer victimization andacademic performance. The proposed study will use the Strengths andDifficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) to measure mental health, especially whenlooking at emotional symptoms (which encompasses depression, anxiety, fears).The SDQ will also be used to examine peer relationship problems in addition toprosocial behaviors. The proposed study will also use a different measure ofacademic performance than most other studies have used (i.
e., GPA). Theproposed study will examine academic performance by looking at scores on stateexams in math and reading. This adds to the literature, because to the author’sknowledge, no or few studies have examined academic performance with this measure.It may be a more objective and standardized way to examine academicperformance, as it is consistent with every school in the state. On the otherhand, GPA may be more likely to vary across schools in how students are gradedand what achievement may look like.DW3 The study will add to the literature by examiningdifferent types of victimization. Peer victimization takes many forms and theliterature has barely scratched the surface in terms of the effects of multipletypes of peer victimization, let alone in the relationship between mentalhealth and academic performance.
Research has shown that reports of being sociallymanipulated was negatively related to academic achievement (Morrow et al.,2017). However, the authors only examined victimization in terms of physical,verbal, social manipulation, and property attacks. The present study will addto the literature by expanding victimization experiences to include physical,verbal, relational and cyber domains. Thisstudy will also add to the literature in how to best treat these youth inschool settings and beyond. Professionals working with children in any capacity,especially mental health professionals and teachers, will have a betterunderstanding of the processes involved in victimized youth.
In addition,parents will gain knowledge in how to support and work with their children. Theresults of the proposed research will add to the field by better understandingthe processes and experiences of victimized youth as well as how and why theseprocesses may occur. In addition, byunderstanding which types of peer victimization experiences may be more or lessharmful, interventions can be more tailored to target one or a few types overthe others. Examining gender in this relationship may be helpful in terms ofwho may be especially important to target for prevention and interventionefforts. Inturn, the research will help to inform interventions targeting these vulnerableand victimized youth in schools, especially when they are getting ready for thetransition to middle school, which can be a tumultuous time with respect tomaking and maintaining friends.
Furthermore, students who bully experience amultitude of emotional, behavioral, and social repercussions. Notably, there isa decrease is cognitive empathy as bullying behavior increases during thistime-period (Williford, Boulton, Forrest-Bank, Bender, Dieterich, & Jenson,2016). Therefore, preventive interventions are needed for this time-period inregards to bullying and victimization experiences (for the perpetrator andvictim) in order to help make a more successful transition (Williford et al.,2016). B. Approacha. Strategy,Methodology and Analyses Datawill be collected from 5th grade elementary school students and 6thmiddle school students from several schools (at least 2 elementary, 2 middle)in Florida.
At least 500 total participants are expected, taking into account opt out ratesDW4 . To increase participation from schools,incentives will be offered, including payment DW5 in addition to data reports given backto schools. Data reports will be helpful for schools to better understand whattypes of victimization occur in addition to any mental health concerns that mayhave been missed.
Resources and potential intervention strategies will also beoffered. Passiveparental consent will be administered to all students at the participatingschools. Letters will be sent to parents of students indicating the occurrenceof the study with instructions to send the form back if they do not want theirchild to participate in the study. Administration of the survey to the studentswill occur in classrooms during a non-academic course period and will takeabout 30 to 45 minutes to complete. The principal investigator or trainedresearch assistants will attend all administrations of the surveys. Studentswill complete self-report measures of mental health and peer victimization. Demographicdata will also be included in the surveys (i.e.
, age, grade, gender,race/ethnicity). Academic performance scores will be collected from theschools, whichwill include state standardized exams from reading and math assessmentsDW6 . Social Experiences Questionnaire, Self-Report: Students will complete the SocialExperiences Questionnaire (SEQ), which consists of 15 items, asking studentsabout their overt and relational victimization experiences, in addition tobeing the recipient of prosocial behaviors. An example item includes, “how oftendoes another kid say they won’t like you unless you do what they want you to do?”Questions are rated on a 5 point Likert-type scale ranging from 1- “never” to 5– “all the time.
” This measure was used in a study by Crick & Grotpeter(1996) and showed acceptable reliability and factor loadings for the threesubscales. Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire,Self-Report: Studentswill complete the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ), self-reportversion, which is a 25-item behavioral screening questionnaire designed tomeasure emotional symptoms, conduct problems, hyperactivity/inattention, peerrelationship problems, and prosocial behaviors. A total difficulties score ismeasured by totaling scores on all scales, except prosocial behaviors. Exampleitems include “many fears, easily scared” and “would rather be alonethan with other youth.” Questions are rated as not true, somewhat true andcertainly true. A pilot study revealed acceptable psychometrics for the use asa self-report measure among 3-16 year-old students (Goodman, Meltzer &Bailey, 1998).
Cyber/Relational Victimization Self-Report Scale: The Cyber Relational and VerbalVictimization Self-Report Scale is an 18-item instrument developed by Wrightand Li (2013) to assess how often students are victimized by cyber relationaland verbal aggression. An example item includes “how often does another peerharass you online or through text messages?” Questions are rated on a 5point Likert-type scale ranging from 1- “never” to 5- “all the time.” Thismeasure was adapted from the relational and verbal aggression and victimizationitems from Crick and Grotpeter (1995). Wright and Li (2013) report highinternal reliability and confirmatory factor analysis showed significance atall time points.
Aseries of simultaneous and sequential multiple regression analyses will beconducted to examine these relationships. (Aims 1 and 3) as well as structural equation modeling and multilevel modelingDW7 (Aim 2) will be conducted to examine these relationships. b. PotentialProblems and Alternative Strategies Thereis a possibility that problems will arise when conducting this research. Forexample, there may be some difficulty in recruiting schools to participate. Therefore,as stated above, data reports will be offered to schools in addition toresources and potential intervention strategies to help combat some of theissues that are occurring at the school.
A passive consent procedure will beutilized to increase the participation rate because active consent may resultin less participation. Parents may also not want their children to participatein the data collection. Therefore, we will emphasize the confidentiality andsensitivity measures and supports taken in order to ensure privacy of allstudents. c. Sensitivityand Feasibility AspectsTheproposed study includes collection of sensitive data around victimizationexperiences and mental health. Confidentiality will be protected and ensured byusing project code numbers. Researchers will work with school officials tocreate code numbers and the list linking the code numbers to names will be heldonly by the school official. Researchers will therefore only have access to thecode numbers so that no identifying information regarding the students’ nameswill be collected.
Data that is collected will be stored in locked filecabinets and all data will be destroyed after the last publication. Confidentialitywill also be emphasized throughout the data collection process by researchersassuring students that their names will not be collected. In addition, duringadministration of the surveys, dividers will be set up between each student inorder to protect the student’s privacy. During and after data collection, thestudents will be reminded to keep their answers private. A fun activity willalso be distributed after the surveys are administered in order to minimize anypotential for rumination on answers.