School Climate and the Assessment of Bullying

Mehta, Sharmila Bandyopadhyay, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Cornell, Dewey, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Konold, Timothy, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Thomas, Antoinette, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Hallahan, Daniel, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia

This dissertation presents a line of research aimed at improving the assessment of bullying and understanding its relationship with school climate. There is a need for validational research on student self-reports of bullying using independent criteria. There is also limited research on the relations between bullying measures and broader indices of school disorder and student engagement. The first manuscript of this dissertation investigated the internal and external validity of three school climate scales used for measuring the prevalence of bullying at school, aggressive attitudes, and student willingness to seek help. Exploratory, confirmatory, and multi-group confirmatory factor analyses were performed with a sample of 2,111 students from four middle schools and established reasonable fit for the hypothesized scales. Regression analyses in a sample of 7,318 ninth grade students attending 291 Virginia high schools indicated that these school climate factors were predictive of external indicators of school disorder. The markers of school disorder included short-term suspensions and long-term suspensions and expulsions, as well as teacher reports of student involvement in bullying and teasing behavior, student willingness to seek help seeking, and gang-related violence. The second manuscript evaluated the accuracy of student self-reports of being a victim of bullying in a sample of 482 middle school students. Study findings demonstrated that only about half (24 of 43) of student self-reports of bullying victimization could be confirmed by counselor interviews. Counselor judgments were supported by peer nominations of bully victimization and self-reported attitudes about bullying. The third manuscript used hierarchical linear modeling to show that more bullying at school is associated with lower school engagement at the student and school level in a statewide sample of 7,058 ninth graders randomly selected from 289 Virginia high schools. Collectively, these studies support the validity of individual and schoolwide assessment of bullying climate and demonstrate consistent relations between bullying and school safety and learning conditions. ... Programs in Clinical and School Psychology Curry School of Education University of Virginia Charlottesville, Virginia APPROVAL OF THE DISSERTATION This dissertation, "School Climate and the Assessment of Bullying", has been approved by the Graduate Faculty of the Curry School of Education in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. r. Timothy R. Konold, Committee Member Dr. Antoinette Thomas, Committee Member Dr. Daniel Hallahan, Committee Member _() '_D __ Date DEDICATION I was inspired to pursue this line of work and research by the struggles of children bearing tremendous burdens. I dedicate this dissertation to anyone who has ever been an advocate for a child and helped them to feel a little bit less alone, as well as to the memories of children who felt the challenges before them were insurmountable and did not find the help they needed.

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PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
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