Schoolyard bullying: an examination of individual differences in thoughts, feelings, and behaviours in adolescents and young adults

Abdilla, G 2009, Schoolyard bullying: an examination of individual differences in thoughts, feelings, and behaviours in adolescents and young adults, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Health Sciences, RMIT University.


Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title Schoolyard bullying: an examination of individual differences in thoughts, feelings, and behaviours in adolescents and young adults
Author(s) Abdilla, G
Year 2009
Abstract Recent research indicates that cognitive factors play an important role in the establishment and maintenance of involvement in bullying. This study adopted a socio-information processing approach to examine the impact of cognitive distortions on the psychosocial functioning of bullies, victims, and bully/victims across ‘Real World’ and ‘Cyber World’ contexts. In addition, the study investigated students’ self-awareness of their status within the bully/victim cycle, and the impact of gender and dual modality victimisation (‘Real World’ and ‘Cyber World’ bullying) on psychosocial functioning. Participants were 532 females and 553 males aged between 11 and 17 years. Participants responded to a series of self-report questionnaires designed to inquire about experiences of ‘Real World’ and ‘Cyber World’ bullying, psychosocial functioning (depression, anxiety, self-esteem, locus of control, attachment, school connectedness, coping, and anger), and the prevalence of self-serving and self-debasing types of cognitive distortions. From the original sample, 56 participants were classified as bullies, 238 as victims, and 59 as bully/victims, in ‘Real World’ contexts. For ‘Cyber World’ bullying, 16 were classified as bullies, 44 as victims, and 13 as bully/victims. Using Kappa’s Cohen, it was found that victims had the highest proportion of correct self-identification. In contrast, a higher proportion of bullies and bully/victims nominated being unsure of their status, and this corresponded to lower rates of concordance between self-perception of status and ‘formal’ status, even when ‘unsure’ responses were coded as nominating oneself as a bully. With respect to cognitive distortions, bullies were differentially characterised by self-serving cognitive distortions, whereas victims were characterised by self-debasing cognitive distortions, and bully/victims were characterised by both types of cognitive distortions. For bullies, self-serving cognitive distortions mediated peer attachment and school connectedness. For victims, self-debasing cognitive distortions mediated depression, anxiety, self-esteem, school connectedness, external locus of control, avoidant and problem-solving coping styles, and anger. These results were comparable to those obtained for cybervictims. For bully/victims, only self-debasing cognitive distortions mediated psychosocial functioning (depression, anxiety, and self-esteem).

The role of gender in moderating the relationship between bullying/victimisation and psychosocial functioning was also examined. The results indicated that gender did not influence psychosocial functioning of bullies, victims, or bully/victims. Furthermore, students who had experienced dual modalities of victimisation demonstrated poorer levels of psychosocial functioning than students experiencing a single modality of bullying, independent of frequency of bullying. Overall, the current research has indicated that a large proportion of bullies and bully/victims may not recognise their behaviour as such, and further education may be required to raise awareness of the types of behaviours and dynamics that constitute bullying. Furthermore, cognitive distortions were shown to be important in understanding the psychosocial functioning of students involved in bullying, irrespective of gender, suggesting that cognitions should be an important target in anti-bullying interventions. In this sample, the prevalence of ‘Real World’ bullying was markedly higher than ‘Cyber World’ bullying, but when victimisation is experienced in both modalities, this appears to have a negative cumulative effect on psychosocial functioning, and places these victims at an elevated risk for psychosocial maladjustment.
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Health Sciences
Keyword(s) Bullying
Cyber Bullying
Psychosocial functioning
Cognitive distortion
Gender
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