A Developmental Perspective on Bullying: Exploring Risk Factors from Preschool through High School

Bistrong, Elizabeth, Clinical Psychology - Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Bistrong, Elizabeth, Human Services and Education, University of Virginia

This dissertation presents a body of work exploring risk factors for bullying involvement across various developmental contexts, including preschool, middle school, and high school. Risk factors for types of bullying involvement were examined in different developmental stages with the goal of better understanding this complex behavior and informing prevention and intervention efforts. The present dissertation is written in accordance with the Curry School of Education and Human Development Guidelines for Manuscript Style Dissertations. The manuscript style dissertation specifies that the doctoral candidate be the principle author on three research manuscripts. Also submitted is a document entailing the conceptual and theoretical links among the three manuscripts. I am the lead author on all three manuscripts presented here in their entirety. The following is a description of the three manuscripts and conceptual linking statement.
The conceptual linking statement provides a cohesive theoretical framework for the three separate manuscripts included in the dissertation. For the present study, numerous theoretical frameworks were drawn upon to inform our understanding of bullying through a developmental lens. Specifically, the social ecological model, the social ecological diathesis stress model, and social cognitive theory were used to anchor a set of inter-related research questions, findings, and implications. The first paper in this dissertation style manuscript was a comprehensive review of the literature on bullying in preschool entitled, “Understanding bullying among
preschool aged children,” (Bistrong, E., Bradshaw, C., & Morin, H. (2016). Understanding bullying among preschool-aged children. In O.N. Saracho (Ed.), Contemporary perspectives on research on bullying and victimization in early childhood education, (pp. 61-86). Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing). This comprehensive review of the literature examined preschool bullying including definition, prevalence, measurement, intervention, and prevention, representing the earliest developmental view in current line of research.
The second study consisted of an empirical study of bystander reactions to bullying amongst middle school students entitled, “Youth Reactions to Bullying: Exploring the factors associated with students’ willingness to intervene,” (Bistrong, E., Bottiani, J. H., & Bradshaw, C. P. (2019). Youth reactions to bullying: Exploring the factors associated with students’ willingness to intervene. Journal of School Violence, 1-14. DOI: 10.1080/15388220.2019.1576048). In this study, we found that personal factors, including previous victimization and overall adjustment, and school perception factors, were associated with students’ reactions to witnessing bullying.
The third and final study in this manuscript style dissertation was an empirical study of neuropsychological and social cognitive predictors of bullying in middle school utilizing performance measures entitled, “Neuropsychological and Cognitive Aspects of Bullying: Exploring the role of select executive functions and social information processing.” This manuscripts will be submitted to for peer review upon completion. Key findings from this manuscript suggested that underlying processes including executive functioning and social information processing play an important role in bullying behavior.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
All rights reserved (no additional license for public reuse)
Issued Date: