Does parental support affect the well-being of children victimized by bullying?
Does Parental Support Affect the Well-Being of a Child Victimized By Bullying?<br />Denae J. Carafa<br />California State University Chico<br />Does Parental Involvement and Quality of Parent/Child Interactions Affect the Well-Being of a Child Victimized By Bullying?<br />Bullying is a worldwide phenomenon that has affected youth for countless years (Connor-Burrows, N., et al, 2009). It is defined as a physical, verbal or psychological attack or intimidation that is intended to cause fear, harm, or distress to the victim (Georgiou, S., 2008). Though much research has been conducted on numerous variations of victim characteristics, the relationship victims’ share with their families is rarely taken into consideration. In order to understand why some victimized children are more negatively impacted than others it is important to investigate a possible relationship victim’s share with their parents that may affect their chances of exhibiting more drastic consequences. Some consequences may include depression, anxiety, psychosomatic symptoms, and in severe cases suicidal ideation (Herba, C., et al., 2008). In saying this, does the presence of parental support lead to less feelings of suicidal ideation, for instance, in victims? When considering the well being of a child it is important to identify depressive symptoms. In regards to victimization, children might be less likely to associate with depressive symptoms if they are receiving support from parents. It is possible that the presence of family support eases the pain and stress that comes about in bullying situations. On the contrary, bullying might more negatively impact victimized children that do not receive parental support. Without such support, it might be more difficult to cope with the consequences victims display. This indicates the importance of researching possible family structures that positively correlate with the well being of a child victimized by bullying.<br />Herba et al. (2008) examined whether parental psychopathology (mental illness) and feelings of rejection at home intensified vulnerability to suicidal ideation in victims of bullying. It was hypothesized that the association between victimization and suicidal ideation would be moderated by vulnerability, such as parental psychopathology and feelings of rejection. Data was collected from the TRAILS study, a longitudinal study following Dutch children every two to three years until at least 21 years of age. Herba et al. focused on the first two assessment waves in the TRAILS study; the mean age for the first assessment wave (T1) was 11.09 years and the mean age in the second assessment (T2) was 13.56 years. Peer nominations were used to determine bully and victim status, which subsequently determined the amount of children available for each assessment wave; 1,526 children were available for the total sample. Children were given a list of their classmates and asked to indicate who had bullied them and whom they had bullied. It is important to note their use of peer nominations to determine bully/victim status as opposed to the predominant research technique of self-reporting questionnaires. Suicidal ideation was measured with two scales from a self report questionnaire and to assess feelings of rejection at home, the EMBU-C was used to determine children’s perceptions of their upbringing and their parent’s rearing practices. Furthermore, parental psychopathology was determined during parent interviews conducted at T1 in order to collect their own history and the child’s other biological parent. Five dimensions of parental psychopathology were used: depression, anxiety, substance abuse, persistent anti social behavior, and psychosis (Herba et al., 2008). <br />Herba et al. (2008) hypothesized that that victims of bullying would report higher levels of suicidal ideation. They also speculated that victims of bullying would be more vulnerable to the effects of bullying, more so than children uninvolved in bullying and victims that do not feel rejected at home. Bully/victims (bullies that are victims; victims that are bullies) in particular, should be more highly affected by parental psychopathology and feelings of rejection at home because of their already elevated levels of internalizing and externalizing behaviors. The results partially supported the hypothesis through elevated levels of suicide in victims compared to uninvolved children, but not so in bully/victims compared with uninvolved children. This association was moderated by parental internalizing disorder and feelings of rejection at home; parental externalizing disorder did not moderate the affects of victimization. It was found that children are more likely to indicate higher levels of suicidal ideation when accompanied with feelings of rejection at home. These results show a strong moderation between victimization, parental internalizing disorder, and feelings of rejection at home. Therefore, parental support in regards to this study is highly important for the well being of victims as they report lower levels of suicidal ideation when they have lower feelings of rejection at home and the absence of parental psychopathology (Herba et al, 2008). <br />The following study examined the degree to which support from parents buffers the level of depression displayed by four groups of children involved in bullying: bullies, victims, bully-victims, and uninvolved (Connor-Burrows, N. et al, 2009). Previous research suggests that there are two broad theories to explain the importance of social support and a child’s functioning (Cohen, Gottlieb, & Underwood, 2000). The first is the main effect model and it suggests that social support has a positive benefit for all children. The second, stress buffering model proposes that social support predominately benefits children at risk or under stress and acts as a buffer for the likelihood of negative outcomes as a result of certain stressors. According to the stress buffering model, victims of bullying should benefit most from social support because of the high levels of stress they endure. On the other hand, in terms of the main effect model all children should benefit equally from social support. In the present study 997 fifth, ninth and eleventh graders in the rural south completed self-report questionnaires regarding bullying, social support, and depression. Surveys were administered to all students on a certain day correlating with their grade group. The participants were predominantly White, as well as smaller numbers of Hispanic and African American students. Connor-Burrows et al. (2009) hypothesized that children with higher involved parents were less likely to be depressed in all categories of bullying similar to that of the main effect model theory.<br />The results from this study suggest that the more parental support children receive the less likely they are to be depressed, regardless of victim, bully or uninvolved status (Connor-Burrows, N., et al, 2009). Additionally, children in the bully – victim category reported higher levels of depression than the other groups and lower levels of parental support than uninvolved children and victims. Also, uninvolved children showed lower levels of depression and higher parental support than those involved in all aspects of bullying. This suggests that victims show more symptoms of depression because they don’t receive the support from parents needed to alleviate the pain left over from bullying incidents. Despite few limitations, the present study had significant strengths that deem its importance (Connor-Burrows, N. et al, 2008). <br />Bonanno and Hymel (2010) examined why some adolescents were more negatively impacted through peer bully victimization than others. Two theoretically derived models were investigated: hopelessness as a risk factor and social support as a protective factor. Social support has been shown to directly and indirectly relate to suicidality among diverse groups. There were 399 eighth to tenth grade students from an urban community high school in British Colombia, Canada used as participants of the study. The majority of the participants were Asian – Canadian, followed by white, and then mixed. Students first completed a single-session self – report questionnaire. Victimization was assessed with the Bullying Questionnaire that included questions such as ‘How often are you bullied?’ and answered on a scale ranging from ‘not at all’ to ‘many times a week’. Suicidal ideation, hopelessness, and social support were also determined with the use of individual self – report questionnaires (Bonnano R., Hymel S., 2010). <br />Bonnano and Hymel (2010) hypothesized that victims would report higher levels of suicidal ideation, especially when perceived social support from parents is low. The results supported this as they found that victims who report lower levels of perceived social support from their parents were at the greatest risk for suicidal ideation. Victimization was positively correlated to suicidal ideation and negatively related to perceived social support from parents. It is important to note that victims were at the highest risk; this signifies a strong relationship between victimization and suicidal ideation without parental support. Also, parental support was perceived as a stronger buffer between victimization and suicidal ideation than peer support. It is clear in the results of this study that parental involvement is highly important to the well being of victimized children. <br />The final study examined by Mohr (2006) addressed the affects of family experiences (family violence, family conflict, parental support, and rejection) on peer victimization and to explore possible links between internalizing problems and reactions to peer conflict. Data was collected from 733 students between fifth and tenth grade with a mean of 13.3 years of age from six different schools in Germany. The participants completed a self-report questionnaire to assess the broad occurrence of victimization in school. This particular survey addresses physical as well as psychological forms of bullying. Hypothetical situations were given to the students to assess their reaction to peer aggression. Similar questionnaires were used to measure internalizing problem behaviors and family variables. It was hypothesized that a high degree of parental support and affection reduces the probability of developing internalizing problem behavior thus reducing the risk of peer victimization. They also expected that family violence and conflict enhances a child’s risk of developing internalizing problem behavior. Furthermore, aggressive and non-aggressive victims and non-victimized aggressors sould experience more conflict and less support from family (Mohr, A., 2006).<br />The results of the study support the aforementioned hypothesis. It was found that internalizing behavior problems, aggressive behavior toward peers, and family violence have the strongest affect on peer victimization. In regards to aggressive behavior victims reported higher levels of negative experience at home than others. Aggressive and non-aggressive victims reported fewer feelings of support and affection from both mothers and fathers. This supports the assumption that child abuse and violence in the home may lead to peer victimization for aggressive and non-aggressive victims. Further results indicated that problems within the peer group and problems at home are correlated and can be evidence that negative experiences at home foster similar experiences with peers. Different results were found in terms of family conflict as opposed to family violence. The presence of family violence was most associated with victimization in children. Parental affection and support was found to negatively correlate with peer victimization. Mother’s affection and support tend to lessen the chances of children reacting in an aggressive manner toward peer conflict more than a father’s; this may be due to the nurturing nature of a mother. All in all, the assumptions that negative family experiences foster problems in peer altercations and favor the involvement in peer victimization were correctly hypothesized (Mohr, A., 2006).<br /> It is accurate to assume that parental support has visible impacts on the well being of victimized children; significant results were found to support this. Though each study revealed significant results, it is worth mentioning that similar limitations were found in each. The most prevalent limitation was the cross-sectional nature of each study; a causal relationship cannot be identified because of this. Also, self-reporting data was used in all four studies and future research should focus on measuring data differently to enhance results. Despite the slight areas of limitations, the results that were found continue to reveal significant results. In saying this, parental support in most cases acts as a buffer for victimized children. When parents are more actively engaged in their child’s life, victimized children are less likely to associate with suicidal ideations (Connor-Burrows N. et al, 2008). On the other hand, perceived feelings of rejection at home were positively correlated with suicidal ideation (Bonnano R., Hymel S., 2010). This suggests that suicidal ideation is higher for victimized children if there is an absence of parental support. Not only was support from parents found to be an important aspect of victimization, parental internalizing disorders showed to positively correlate with victimized children (Herba et al, 2008). This shows that parental psychopathology indeed plays a role in the lives of victimized children, especially because of the nonsignificant effects of parental externalizing disorders. Although family violence was addressed in only one study, it is important to mention that the presence of family violence is positively correlated with victimization (Mohr, A., 2006). With more positive support and less feelings of rejection from parents, victims of bullying are less likely to associate with suicidal ideations; this was evident in at least three of the four studies. All in all, the well being of a child is indefinitely affected to a certain degree by the parental support they receive. <br />References<br />Bonanno, R., & Hymel, S. (2010). Investigating why some victims of bullying are at greater risk for suicidal ideation, Merril-Palmer Quarterly 56 (3), retrieved from http://content.ebscohost.com/pdf23_24/pdf/2010/MPQ/01Jul10/52258055.pdf?T=P&P=AN&K=52258055&S=R&D=aph&EbscoContent=dGJyMNLr40Sep7c4v&ContentCustomer=dGJyMPGrtFCvrbNMuePfgeyx44Dt6fIA<br />Cohen, S., Gottlieb, B. H., & Underwood, L. G. (2000). Social relationships and health. In S. Cohen, L. G. Underwood & B. H. Gottlieb (Eds.), Social support measurement and intervention: A guide for health and social scientists (pp. 3-25). 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