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Bullying and stress in early adolescents : the roles of coping and social support Konishi, Chiaki

Abstract

The present study investigated the relation between stress experiences and bullying behavior, examining the potential stress-buffering role of effective coping and social support in reducing the likelihood of bullying in response to stress. It was expected that greater stress would be associated with more bullying behavior, and that the relation between stress and bullying would be moderated by particular coping strategies, specifically active and distraction coping, and by social support. Students in grades 5-7 (N=312) completed questionnaires assessing levels of stress (including major stressful events and daily hassles), bullying behavior (peer and self assessments), coping strategies used (active, avoidance, distraction, and support seeking), and perceived social support (from friends, family, or teachers). Results indicated that both major stressful events and daily hassles were positively but modestly associated with self-reported bullying behavior, not peer-assessed bullying. Children who reported high levels of stress reported more bullying behavior, although they were not more likely to be viewed by peers as bullies. Regression analyses revealed a unique moderation effect of distraction coping on the stress-bullying link. At low levels of stress, children who reported using high levels of distraction coping also reported lower levels of bullying, although this pattern varied across three forms of bullying (i.e., physical, verbal, relational) and by gender. However, as levels of stress increased, the effect of distraction coping reversed; those who reported high levels of distraction coping reported higher levels of bullying than those who reported lower levels of distraction coping. With respect to social support, family support was found to moderate the relationship between stress and bullying, although this moderation effect differed across three forms of bullying, and by gender. With low levels of perceived support from family, the positive relation between stress and bullying was greater, whereas with high levels of perceived support from family, the stress-bullying relation was weaker. Perceived friend support also moderated the stress-bullying link, only when physical bullying was considered, and only for girls when gender differences were considered. Taken together, these findings suggest possible protective factors that might help children to minimize the likelihood of bullying under conditions of stress, including the potential buffering effect of social support, especially from family and friends.

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