Tuesday October 2nd 2012 - NYBH Staff
Consequences of Adolescent Bullying
Research indicates children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are at a heightened risk for involvement in bullying with more than 50% experiencing victimization, instigating bullying behaviors, or both. Timmermanis & Wiener (2011) note most available research covers youth ages 13 and under and therefore seek to address the scarcity of research connecting adolescents diagnosed with ADHD to bullying behaviors and peer victimization. Hypothesizing that adolescents with ADHD are more likely to bully and be victimized by peers, the researchers try to highlight a population they believe are vulnerable to chronic bullying. The consequences of bullying are potentially long lasting and severe. Research indicates that chronic bullying is connected to negative social, emotional and academic outcomes. Some of the consequences, such as low self-esteem or depression, can significantly impact adjustments and relationships well into adulthood. For these reasons, it is critical for clinicians to proactively understand and address clients’ social spheres and relational struggles when treating adolescents with ADHD.
Assessment of Involvement in Bullying
Anxiety, depression, oppositional behaviors, inattention, and hyperactivity have all been identified as potential risk factors for involvement in bullying. Children with ADHD, consequently, may often share several of these traits as the disorder is characterized by inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. These symptoms of ADHD continue into adolescence for 50-80% of children with ADHD, likely accounting for years of relational and academic struggles. To gage adolescents’ involvement in bullying, Timmermanis & Wiener administered three self-reporting tools to participants (with ADHD diagnosis and comparison group), ages 13-18. The tools included: The Safe Schools Questionnaire (SSQ; Pepler, Craig, Charach, & Zeigler, 1993), the Connors Rating Scale (Connors, 2008) and the Social Support Behaviors Scale (SSBS; Vaux, Riedel, & Stewart, 1987).
What Adolescents Reported
The results of the research support the hypotheses formulated by Timmermanis & Wiener (2011) that adolescents with ADHD do report higher levels of victimization by peers as well as bullying behaviors on their own part than do their peers without ADHD. Interestingly, adolescents with ADHD appear to have a stronger short-term memory with regard to peer victimization, reporting increased levels of victimization within the 5 days prior to testing versus over a two-month period. Conversely, when asked about bullying behaviors, the opposite was true; that is, adolescents with ADHD were more likely to report their own bullying behaviors over the past two months and less likely to report instances of bullying within the last week prior to testing. Timmermanis & Wiener suggest the latter may be an attempt to downplay the severity of their own negative behavior. Consistent with past research, adolescents with ADHD also had considerably higher levels of parent- and teacher-reported relational difficulties than did their peers.
Need for Relationship and Social Skill-Building
Timmermanis & Wiener urge school psychologists to tailor interventions to the aforementioned relational consequences and address not only outward symptoms of ADHD, but also the emotional and relational symptoms. Adolescents with ADHD may benefit from intervention and prevention programs that include relationship and social skill building components.
Conners, C. K. (2008). Conners’ rating scales-third edition. Toronto, Ontario, Canada: Multi-Health Systems.
Pepler, D., Craig, W., Charach, A., & Zeigler, S. (1993). A school-based antibullying intervention: Preliminary evaluation. In D. Tattum (Ed.), Understanding and managing bullying (pp. 76-91). Oxford, UK: Heineman Books.
Timmermanis, V. & Wiener, J. (2011). Social correlates of bullying in adolescents with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. Canadian Journal of School Psychology, 26 (4), 301-318.
Vaux, A., Riedel, S., & Stewart, D. (1987). Modes of social support: The social support behaviors (SSB) scale. American Journal of Community Psychology, 15(2), 209-237.
Tuesday September 25th 2012 - NYBH Staff
Prevalence of ADHD in Bullies and Victims
In an attempt to better understand the connection between the widespread phenomenon of bullying and participants’ mental health, Unnever & Cornell (2003) examined the relationship between bullying, self-control, and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). The researchers cited previous studies reported by Swedish psychologist Dan Olweus indicating that victims of adolescent bullying more often report depression and low-self esteem into adulthood (Olweus, 1993) and that bullies are more likely than their peers to engage in criminal behaviors as they mature into adulthood (Olweus, 1999). Thus the long-term effects of bullying negatively impact both bullies and their victims. Unnever & Cornell (2003) hypothesized that certain behavioral characteristics, such as those often present in children with an ADHD diagnosis, may make a child more vulnerable to both bullying and peer victimization. They also cite a study conducted in Finland by Kumpulainen, Rasanen, & Puura (2001) that reported ADHD, characterized by inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity, was the most prevalent mental disorder diagnosed in both bullies and victims.
Spotlight on Impulsivity
Since impulsivity is known to be a psychological correlate of both bullying and ADHD (Olweus, 1993; Barkely, 1998), the investigators decided to examine it (impulsivity) specifically (Unnever & Cornell, 2003). Low self-control is characterized as a construct of impulsivity, thereby making children with an ADHD diagnosis more susceptible to behavioral manifestations that demonstrate inhibited self-control, such as aggression. In an attempt to clarify the relationships existing among bullying, ADHD, and self-control, Unnever and Cornell surveyed a sample of students drawn from six public schools in Roanoke, Virginia. Teachers administered to students in this study an anonymous survey with questions aimed at understanding bullying/victimization, ADHD status, and self-control. An adaptation of Olweus’ Bully/Victim Questionnaire was used, as well as a self-control scale developed by Grasmick, Tittle, Bursik, and Arnekleve (1993).
Likelihood of Bullying and of Being Victimized
Research results indicated that students taking medication for ADHD had low levels of reported self-control (Unnever & Cornell, 2003). Further, a strong relationship was demonstrated between reported levels of low self-control and bullying behaviors. Approximately 13% of students on medication for ADHD reported bullying a couple of times per month, in contrast to their peers, 8% of whom reported the same rate of bullying. Conversely, low self-control was not related to peer victimization, even though 34% of students on medication for ADHD reported being victimized a couple of times per month, as compared to their peers at 22%. Thus, symptoms of ADHD, independent of low self-control, are likely connected to increased vulnerability to victimization.
Barkley, R. A. (1998). Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: A handbook for diagnosis and treatment (2nd ed.). New York: Guilford.
Grasmick, H. C., Tittle, C. R., Bursik, R. J., Jr., & Arnekleve, B. J. (1993). Testing the core empirical implications of Gottfredson and Hirschi’s general theory of crime. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, 30, 5-29.
Kumpulainen, K., Rasanen, E., & Puura, K. (2001). Psychiatric disorders and the use of mental health services among children involved in bullying. Aggressive Behavior, 27: 102-110.
Olweus, D. (1993). Bullying at school. Cambridge: Blackwell.
Olweus, D., Limber,S., & Mihalic,S.F. (1999). Blueprints for violence prevention, book nine: Bullying prevention program. Boulder, CO: Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence.
Unnever, J. & Cornell, D., (2003). Bullying, self-control, and ADHD. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 18(2): 129-147.
Friday September 21st 2012 - NYBH Staff
Characteristics of OCD and AS
What is the relationship between specific symptom dimensions of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Anxiety sensitivity (AS), or the fear of physiological reactions associated with anxiety? A group of researchers designed a study that might lead us to a better understanding of how these constructs are related (Wheaton, Mahaffey, Timpano, Berman, & Abramowitz, 2011). They first examined previous research delineating the three dimensions of AS (physical, social, and cognitive) and the relationship of each to specific manifestations of anxiety. For example, panic is often associated with the physical dimension of AS; patients fear their body’s physiological reactions to anxiety and thereby exacerbate the fear (Deacon & Abramowitz, 2006). Similarly, the cognitive dimension of anxiety sensitivity has most often been associated with the type of pathological worry seen in Generalized Anxiety Disorder or GAD (Rector et al., 2007). Yet, researchers have rarely addressed the dimensions of AS in relation to OCD, a disorder characterized by recurring thoughts, images, or impulses that provoke anxiety as well as unwanted behaviors that are adopted by these individuals to manage said anxiety. In their study, Wheaton et al. (2011) contribute to the greater understanding of the relationship between OCD symptoms and an individual’s anxiety sensitivity.
Wheaton et al. (2011) reference the only other study completed with a similar aim; Calamari, Rector, Woodard, Cohen, and Chik (2008) divided a sample of patients with OCD into seven categories of symptom presentation: Contamination-washing, harming (aggressive obsessions and checking compulsions), hoarding, obsessional (miscellaneous obsessions and compulsions), symmetry, certainty, and contamination/harming. Calamari et al. (2008) found that “AS was related to obsessive-compulsive (OC) symptom severity among all patient groups except for the hoarding and obsessional groups,” and that patients in the combined category of contamination/harming had higher levels of AS than participants in any of the other groups (p. 892). According to the hypothesis of the study conducted by Wheaton et al. (2011), the cognitive aspect of AS would be closely associated with the harm OCD symptom dimension, typically characterized by aggressive and unwanted thoughts about violence and harm. Additionally, Wheaton et al. (2011) hypothesized that contamination fears would be closely related to the physical component of AS, as individuals can be overly sensitive to contracting illness or experiencing physiological signs of illness.
Measuring the Constructs
For their study, the researchers administered the Anxiety Sensitivity Index-3 (ASI-3; Taylor et al. 2007), the Center for Epidemiological Studies-Depression Scale (CES-D; Radloff, 1977), Obsessive Beliefs Questionnaire (OBQ; Obsessive Compulsive Cognitions Working Group, 2005) and the Obsessive-Compulsive Scale (DOCS; Abramowitz et al., 2010) to a group of undergraduate students enrolled in an introductory psychology course at a large university in the US.
Anxiety and OC Symptoms
The results of the study were in line with the researchers’ hypotheses. First, fears that anxiety was indicative of a physical problem (the physical dimension of AS) were “uniquely predictive of the contamination OC symptom dimension” (Wheaton et al., 2011, p.895). The researchers propose this connection could be related to the often present fear that contamination will induce illness. Further, the results also showed that anxiety surrounding cognitive dyscontrol was predictive of the OC symptom of unacceptable and repetitive thoughts, with participants reporting the failure to control thoughts as a sign of “mental weakness” (Wheaton et al., 2011, p. 895). Similarly, fears of cognitive dyscontrol were also related to the OC symptom dimension of harm; this dimension is characterized by an individual’s fear that he/she will cause harm to another, either intentionally or unintentionally.
Benefit of Learning About Anxiety
The investigators (Wheaton et al., 2011) stress the importance of continued research into the intricacies of the relationship between the three components of AS and the symptom dimensions of OCD. A heightened understanding of this relationship could impact the treatment of OCD. Clinicians could incorporate psychoeducation about anxiety sensitivity into therapy sessions. They could utilize relaxation techniques to help clients better understand the primary dimension from which their anxiety stems and to better manage the physiological symptoms of anxiety that may exacerbate an individual’s distress.
Abramowitz, J. S., Deacon, B., Olatunji, B., Wheaton, M. G., Berman, N., Losardo, D., et al. (2010). Assessment of obsessive-compulsive symptom dimensions: Development and evaluation of the Dimensional Obsessive-Compulsive Scale. Psychological Assessment, 22, 180-198.
Calamari, J. E., Rector, N. A., Woodard, J. L., Cohen, R. J., & Chik, H. M. (2008). Anxiety sensitivity and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Assessment, 15: 351-363.
Deacon, B. & Abramowitz, J. S. (2006). Anxiety sensitivity and its dimensions across the anxiety disorders. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 20: 837-857.
Obsessive Compulsive Cognitions Working Group (2005). Psychometric validation of the obsessive belief questionnaire and interpretation of intrusions inventory: Part 2, factor analyses and testing of a brief version. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 43: 1527-1543.
Radloff, L. S. (1977). The CES-D scale: A self-report depression scale for research in the general population. Applied Psychological Measurement, 1: 385-401.
Rector, N. A., Szacun-Shimizu, K., & Leybman, M. (2007). Anxiety sensitivity within the anxiety disorders: Disorder-specific sensitivities and depression comorbidity. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 45: 1967-1975.
Taylor, S., Zvolensky, M., Cox, B., Deacon, B., Heimberg, R., Ledley, D. R., et al. (2007). Robust dimensions of anxiety sensitivity: Development and initial validation of the Anxiety Sensitivity Index-3 (ASI-3). Psychological Assessment, 19:176-188.
Wheaton, M., Mahaffey, B., Timpano, K., Berman, N., Abramowitz, J. (2011). The relationship between anxiety sensitivity and obsessive-compulsive symptom dimensions. Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 43: 891-896.
Monday September 17th 2012 - NYBH Staff
Vulnerability of ADHD and AS Populations
A recent study highlights youth with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Asperger Syndrome (AS) as populations particularly vulnerable to peer victimization (Kowalski & Fedina, 2011). Both disorders result in behavioral reactions that may alienate peers and thereby increase an individual’s likelihood to be targeted by bullies. The researchers note that children with ADHD can be impulsive, defiant, and aggressive, whereas children with AS often lack the awareness to read social cues and are easily agitated by external stimuli. Prior research indicates that children with ADHD are more likely to report instances of peer victimization than their classmates without ADHD. The same is true for children with Asperger Syndrome. Kowalski & Fedina endeavor to illumine a highly aggressive and emerging form of bullying and its prevalence among vulnerable populations: cyber bullying.
Traditional and Cyber Bullying Compared
Cyber bullying is defined by Kowalski & Fedina as an instance when technology, (email, texting, social media sites) is used to bully others. Cyber bullying is likened to traditional bullying in that it takes place over a period of time and results in a power imbalance. However, cyber bullying is distinguished from traditional bullying in that 50% of victims are unaware of the perpetrator. Kowalski & Fedina note that the removal of accountability opens up the bullying pool to a population who might otherwise never act maliciously. The researchers also note that cyber bullying offers victims no reprieve. Victims of traditional bullying at school, for example, are able to escape after school hours to alternative settings. The worldwide web offers no such haven and bullies have the ability to torment their victims at all hours of a day.
Kowalski & Fedina hypothesize that, while children with ADHD and Asperger Syndrome are more susceptible to traditional bullying, they are also at an increased risk for cyber bullying. The Internet can often be an enticing platform of social interaction for children who lack certain social skills. Children with ADHD and AS who are utilizing the Internet for this purpose may, sadly, increase the risk of peer victimization. Further, Kowalski & Fedina hypothesize that there is a disconnect between children’s online activities and parents’ knowledge of these activities. The lack of supervision heightens victims’ vulnerability and allows bullying to continue unchecked.
Examining Bullying Behavior and Reactions to Victimization
Participants in the aforementioned study by Kowalski & Fedina (2011) were recruited from a summer camp specifically for children with an ADHD or AS diagnosis. Participants were asked to complete an Electronic Bullying Questionnaire (Kowalski & Limber, 2007) to assess for both victimization and bullying behaviors. Participants were also asked to fill out a written survey with questions about Internet use and supervision. A questionnaire developed by Fekkes, Pijpers, & Verloove-VanHorick (2004) was utilized to assess participants’ physiological reactions to victimization, in particular, anxiety, sleep problems, headache, fatigue, poor appetite, skin problems, and bed-wetting. The 10-item Rosenberg Self Esteem Inventory (1965), as well as the Beck Depression Scale (BDI-Y) and Beck Youth Anxiety Scale (BAI-Y)—both introduced in 2005--were also administered to participants. Finally, parents were afforded the opportunity to complete a specially designed survey via Survey Monkey to assess knowledge of their children’s online activity as well as their perceptions about their child’s involvement in cyber bullying.
ADHD and AS Increase Risk for Bullying
The results yielded by this research (Kowalski & Fedina, 2011) support the hypothesis that youth with ADHD and Asperger Syndrome are at an increased risk for both traditional and cyber bullying. Kowalski & Fedina note: “Just over 57% of the respondents indicated that they had been traditionally bullied within the past two months, with 19% of these being bullied several times a week. Over 21 percent (21.4%) indicated that they had been victims of cyber bullying within the past two months, the majority of these (9.5%) experiencing cyber bullying once or twice” (p. 5). Parents, though more in tune with instances of traditional bullying, appear relatively uninformed about cyber bullying, with 73% indicating their child has never been the victim of cyber bullying. Incidentally, instant messaging and social networking sites were two of the most frequent platforms for cyber bullying behavior.
Cyber bullying continues to gain momentum as a method for systematically victimizing others and poses unique challenges unmatched in traditional bullying efforts. Researchers, clinicians, parents, and all stakeholders in a child’s life must be aware of the prevalence, severity, and emotional consequences present with this phenomenon. Similarly, interventions should aim considerable attention toward youth who by nature are more vulnerable to victimization. Efforts must also be made to interrupt cyber bullies’ behaviors and increase behavioral consequences.
Beck, J. S., Beck, A. T., Jolly, J. B., & Steer, R. A. (2005). Beck youth inventories for children and adolescents (2nd ed.). San Antonio, TX: Harcourt Assessment.
Fekkes, M., Pijpers, F. I. M., & Verloove-VanHorick, S. P. (2004). Bullying behaviors and associations with psychosomatic complaints and depression in victims.
Journal of Pediatrics, 144, 17–22.
Kowalski, R. M. & Limber, S. (2007). Electronic bullying among middle school students. Journal of Adolescent Health, 41, S22–S30.
Kowalski, R. & Fedina, C. (2011). Cyber bullying in ADHD and Asperger Syndrome populations. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 5: 1201-1208.
Rosenberg, M. (1965). Society and the adolescent self-image. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Sunday September 9th 2012 - NYBH Staff
Three Factors Studied
Several years ago, a team of researchers--Bacchini, Affuso, and Trotta—set out to examine three factors related to social likeability: Temperament, problem behavior associated with hyperactivity and inattention, and involvement in school bullying, i.e., as a bully or a victim. The study undertaken by Bacchini et al. (2008) aims to better understand how these three factors interact with one another and influence social preference and academic performance. The investigation tests the following model: “A child’s temperament influences adaptation to the demands of school, how success or failure in meeting these demands influences the risk of a child becoming a bully or a victim of bullying, and how involvement in school bullying influences social preference” (p. 447).
Data Collection Methods
The study was conducted in Italy and drew participants (students, parents, and teachers) from three primary schools. Temperamental traits were measured by asking mothers to complete QUIT (Axia, 2002), the Italian questionnaire for temperament. The questionnaire measures three areas of temperament: Attention, inhibition to novelty (reactions to changes in environment), and negative emotionality. Symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) were measured with the SDHI (Cornoldi et al. 1996), which was administered to teachers. Students were then asked to nominate three bullies and three victims to screen for students’ perceptions of social preference. Similarly, children were also asked to list which students in the class they would prefer to be around and which they preferred not to be around.
Linked: Temperament, ADHD, and Susceptibility to Bullying
The results of the analysis support the proposed hypothesis (Bacchini et al., 2008) that the temperamental characteristics outlined above are connected to ADHD symptoms and, further, that the symptoms thus influence peer relations and one’s susceptibility to bullying. The main component in the findings linking temperament to ADHD symptoms is inhibition to novelty. The researchers indicate that children with high inhibition to novelty are easily irritable, anxious, and physiologically affected when confronted with changes in the environment. High inhibition can potentially activate more frequently in school settings with constantly changing stimuli, thereby causing children with this difficulty more easily to appear inattentive and restless.
Far-reaching Consequences of ADHD Symptoms
In accordance with previous research, data from the study by Bacchini et al. (2008) reflect that both bullying behavior and peer victimization are related to ADHD symptoms. ADHD symptoms include: Inattention, hyperactivity, aggression, oppositional behavior, and a struggle with regulation of emotions. These characteristics are intuitively connected to relational struggles and often perpetuate cycles of bullying behavior and social ostracism. Bacchini et al. highlight the varying outcomes associated with gender and note that ADHD symptoms in males are associated with bullying behavior; whereas ADHD symptoms in females increase the likelihood of peer victimization. ADHD symptoms should be viewed, according to Bacchini et al., as “… negative social catalysts that can amplify negative responses by parents, teachers, and peers” (p. 456). They highlight the fact that a child’s behavioral difficulties are typically consistently disruptive in the home, at school, and in peer relationships. The far reaching potential consequences of ADHD symptoms should be carefully researched and understood so as to maximize potential treatments and social interventions. Bacchini et al. (2008) suggest interventions that teach peers how to relate to children with ADHD symptoms to avoid aggressive reactions of inappropriate behaviors.
Axia G. 2002. QUIT Questionari italiani del temperamento (Italian Questionnaires of Temperament). Trento: Erickson.
Bacchini, D., Affuso, G., & Trotta, T. (2008). Temperament, ADHD and peer relations among schoolchildren: The mediating role of school bullying. Aggressive Behavior, 34: 447-459.
Cornoldi C, Gardinale M, Masi A, Pettenò L. 1996. Impulsività e autocontrollo (Impulsivity and Self-control). Trento: Erickson.
Thursday August 30th 2012 - NYBH Staff
How do childhood attachments relate to or affect later participation in the bullying dynamic? Two researchers recently examined this relationship (Williams & Kennedy, 2012) with the hypothesis that a child’s early attachment style to both parents could greatly impact a child’s future relational behaviors. The foundation of Attachment theory is based on the notion that all infants attach to their primary caregivers in one of three fashions: Secure, insecure-ambivalent, or insecure-avoidant (Ainsworth, 1979). Secure attachments are formed when parents are attentive to their infant’s needs in a loving and caring manner. Insecure-ambivalent attachments can occur when parents do not consistently tend to their infant's needs, causing confusion in the infant. When caregivers are angry or rejecting with their infants, an avoidant attachment may occur as the infant seeks to avoid the anxiety produced by caregiver. These patterns have been found to impact and predict future behavior such as “problem solving, academic performance, and social competence with peers" (Stams, Juffer, & van IJzendoorn, 2002; Thompson, 2000). Williams & Kennedy (2012) hypothesize that, if attachment patterns are predictive of the behaviors above, perhaps they are also predictive of a child’s susceptibility to bullying or victimization.
Recall of Childhood Experiences
The researchers’ study was conducted among undergraduate students in a rural southeastern university. Participants were administered the Experiences in Close Relationships (ECR) questionnaire (Fraley, Waller, & Brennan, 2001), the Aggression Scale (Buss & Perry, 1992), the shortened Indirect Aggression Scale for aggressors (IAS-A) (Forrest, Eatough, & Shevlin, 2005) and the modified Social Experiences Questionnaire (Yeung & Leadbeater, 2010). Participants were congregated into small groups and asked to recall childhood experiences in order to complete the questionnaires.
The main findings of the study (Williams & Kennedy, 2012) are as follows: “Female participants were more likely to report engaging in physical aggression when they scored higher on measures of attachment avoidance (insecure-avoidant) to their mothers and higher on measures of attachment anxiety (insecure-ambivalent) to their fathers” (p. 330). Additionally, females were more likely to engage in relational bullying and/or experience peer victimization when they experienced an insecure-ambivalent relationship with their mother. Males were shown to participate more in relational bullying when they experienced attachment anxiety toward their fathers.
Need for More Research on this Topic
Thus, the hypothesis posed by Williams & Kennedy (2012) that attachment styles can be predictive of an individual’s involvement in the bullying dynamic was supported by the data. The researchers call for more research to address these findings, potentially among younger participants, as one of the identified limitations of this study was the advanced age of participants and the need to recall childhood events.
Ainsworth, M. (1979). Infant-mother attachment. American Psychologist, 34, 932-937.
Buss, A. H., & Perry, M. (1992). The aggression questionnaire. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 63, 452-459.
Forrest, S., Eatough, V., & Shevlin, M. (2005). Measuring adult indirect aggression: The development and psychometric assessment of the indirect aggression scales. Aggressive Behavior, 31, 84-97.
Fraley, R. C., Waller, N. G., & Brennan, K. A. (2000). An item response theory analysis of self-report measures of adult attachment. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 78, 350-365.
Stams, G. J. M., Juffer, F., & van IJzendoorn, M. H. (2002). Maternal sensitivity, infant attachment, and temperament in early childhood predict adjustment in middle childhood: The case of adopted children and their biologically unrelated parent. Developmental Psychology, 38, 806-821.
Thompson, R. A. (2000). The legacy of early attachments, Child Development, 71, 145-152.
Williams, K., Kennedy, J. (2012). Bullying behaviors and attachment styles. North American Journal of Psychology, 14(2): 321-338.
Yeung, R., & Leadbeater, B. (2009). Adults make a difference: The protective effects of parent and teacher emotional support on emotional and behavioral problems of peer-victimized adolescents. Journal of Community Psychology,
Monday August 27th 2012 - NYBH Staff
No Standard Solution
School bullying, as described by Pugh & Chitiyo (2012) is a universal problem without a universal intervention. In other words, despite its prevalence, school bullying remains without a comprehensive and standard solution, adopted and understood by clinicians, researchers, parents, teachers, and administrators. Positive behavior support is the standard intervention endorsed by Pugh & Chitiyo for the treatment of school bullying - a painful phenomenon with immediate and long-term consequences.
Defining School Bullying
The most commonly used definition of school bullying is from Olweus (1994) and considers that an individual is bullied when he/she is “… exposed, repeatedly, and over time, to negative actions on the part of one or more other students” (p. 47). However, Pugh & Chitiyo highlight the fact that several subsequent researchers created their own working definitions in lieu of Olweus’ definition, further complicating a deepened understanding about this age-old experience. Pugh & Chitiyo cite innumerable statistics by varying sources, some of which reflect differing outcomes. While most research indicates bullying is a pervasive global problem, especially among children and adolescents, the absence of standard measurement tools impacts researchers’, clinicians’, teachers’, and parents’ understanding of the scope of the problem.
Strategies to Reduce Bullying in Schools
School interventions, not surprisingly, follow a similar pattern and can vary greatly in choice and success of the intervention. The most common school intervention strategies, according to Pugh & Chitiyo, are punitive, informational, skills mastery, and/or surveillance and incentive strategies. Yet, no school intervention strategy has yet demonstrated its supremacy. Pugh & Chitiyo suggest positive behavior support (PBIS), a surveillance and incentive approach, as a promising approach to reduce bullying in schools.
Components of the PBIS Approach
PBIS is a proactive approach to school bullying that focuses on “redesigning the environment” and encouraging success among program participants. PBIS focuses on intervening on three tiers: (Tier 1) school-wide, (Tier 2) specific setting, like the classroom, and (Tier 3) the individual. Tier 1 efforts, or primary efforts, should focus on training all students about expectations and acceptable behaviors, and on developing strategies, including a reward system, to enforce these behaviors. This level of intervention aims to reduce the number of new bullying cases and has proven effective for a majority of students (p. 49). Subsequently, Tier 2 (secondary intervention) is reserved for students still identified as at risk for bullying behaviors after a large group intervention. A Tier 2 intervention might consist of targeting a specific problem setting such as the classroom, playground, or cafeteria. Last, Tier 3 is an individualized intervention targeted toward the small percentage of students consistently engaging in problem behaviors. In Tier 3 interventions, behavioral teams assess students to identify specific problem behaviors, their perceived function, and how to introduce acceptable alternate behaviors.
Cognitive Behavioral Model for Intervention Programs
PBIS targets primarily behaviors, not individuals, and endorses the idea that, when students notice a positive shift in classmates’ behaviors, they are less inclined to bully. Additionally, PBIS offers a “… general framework within which a variety of interventions can be constructed” (p. 50). Pugh & Chitiyo elaborate on several such programs, tailored toward one or more of PBIS’ tiers, which have reported measured success. PBIS programs require training and involvement of all stakeholders (parents, teachers, etc.). Pugh & Chitiyo note that PBIS programs have been implemented in over 13,000 schools in the USA and are yielding effective results. The tier system allows practitioners to focus efforts on changing school bullies’ environments to better support positive replacement behaviors, and comprehensively create change in all identified problem areas. Following a cognitive-behavioral model, each tier “… focuses on behaviors, the antecedents that produce the behaviors, and the settings in which behaviors occur” (50). Data are collected and analyzed throughout each program, and necessary changes are implemented in real time, all to better ensure target behaviors and outcomes are achieved. The researchers encourage increased implementation of PBIS programs, as well as research efforts to continue the attempt to establish an accepted and universal approach for the treatment of school bullying.
Olweus, D. (1994). Annotation: bullying at school: Basic facts and effects of a school-based intervention program. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 35 (7), pp. 1171–90.
Pugh, R. & Chitiyo, M. (2012). The problem of bullying in schools and the promise of positive behaviour supports. Journal of Research in Special Educational Needs, 12 (2), p. 47-53.
Monday August 20th 2012 - NYBH Staff
Factors that Predict Peer Victimization
Are youth, ages 9-14, with a diagnosis of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) at a greater risk for peer victimization than their peers? Two researchers conducted a study to find out (Weiner & Mak, 2009). Standard predictive factors for peer victimization, such as social anxiety, oppositional behavior, and social skills, were examined as potential influencing agents that may increase a child’s risk for peer victimization, above and beyond symptoms of ADHD. Two sample groups of participants were assessed for these factors. One consisted of children with a verified diagnosis of ADHD, and the other consisted of children without a known diagnosis. Participants were asked to complete the Boer-Hersch (2002) adaptation of the Bully/Victim Questionnaire (BVC), a tool used to assess experiences of peer victimization in school. Connors’ (1997) CPRS was used to screen for predictors of peer victimization and the SSRS Parent and Teacher Forms (Gresham & Elliott, 1990) were used to assess the social skills of participants.
ADHD, Bully/Victim Behavior, and Gender Differences
Study results indicated that children with ADHD, especially girls, were more likely to report peer victimization than children in the comparison group (Weiner & Mak, 2009). Although the children’s self-reports did not reflect higher rates of bullying behavior among children with ADHD, the reports of parents and teachers indicated that these children were more likely than their peers to bully and threaten others. Essentially, Weiner & Mak noted that children with ADHD were more likely to be bullies, victims, and bully-victims, with 57% of participants in this group indicating some level of involvement in the bullying experience. The percentage figure was noteworthy when compared to only 13.6% in the comparison group reporting similar experiences. The researchers also indicated that girls with ADHD were more likely to have relational difficulties than boys with ADHD, a finding consistent with previous research.
What Clinicians Can Do
There are three important implications for clinicians arising from this study: (1) thorough investigation of social history and relational challenges present in children diagnosed with ADHD, (2) increased awareness about the prevalence of relational bullying, and (3) intervention programs that target relationship building in addition to the reduction of negative behaviors.
Boer-Hersh, M. (2002). Peer victimization and adjustment. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Toronto, Toronto.
Conners, C. K. (1997). Conners’ Rating Scales-Revised: Technical Manual. Multi-Health Systems, Inc.: Toronto.
Gresham, F. M., & Elliott, S. N. (1990). Social Skills Rating System manual. American Guidance Service Inc.: Circle Pines, MN.
Wiener, J., Mak, M., (2009). Peer victimization in children with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. Psychology in the Schools, 46 (2): p. 116-131.
Friday August 17th 2012 - NYBH Staff
Holistic Understanding Needed
How do we address bullying and victimization of children and adolescents with psychiatric disorders? Should interventions be different than those aimed at bullying/victimization of kids in general? To explore these questions, we may need to review some older studies on the subject, namely that by Kumpulainen, Rasanen, & Puura in 2001. In order to understand the relationship between bullying, psychiatric disorders, and subsequently, the utilization of mental health interventions in addressing bullying and victimization, these researchers carried out a study with students drawn from districts across Finland. The team had noted a myriad of research highlighting high instances of depression and other mental health diagnoses among bullies, victims, and bully-victims (those who both bully and are victims of bullying). As such, Kumpulainen et al. (2001) stressed the importance for mental health clinicians treating children and adolescents to address clients’ presenting problems with a holistic understanding of the bullying dynamic as a far reaching social stressor.
Assessing Mental Health Status
Participants, their parents, and teachers were required to complete a series of questionnaires to assist the researchers in understanding participants’ mental health status. The questionnaires included the Children’s Depression Inventory (CDI) (Kovacs, 1980, 1992), the 31-item Rutter A2 Scale (Rutter et al., 1970), and the 27-item Rutter B2 Scale (Rutter, 1967). In the next phase of the study, a subsample was randomly chosen and participants in this category, along with their parents, were interviewed separately by child psychiatrists or well trained registrars. The interview screened for emotional, behavioral, and general psychiatric disturbances among the children.
The results of the 2001 study indicated that most of the children involved in bullying, especially the bullies and bully-victims, also had psychiatric disorders. Among bullies: “Nearly one-third had attention deficit disorder (29.2%), 12.5% had depression, and 12.5% had oppositional/conduct disorder” (Kumpulainen et al, 2001, p. 106). Among bully-victims, Oppositional/Conduct disorder was most common at 21.5%, followed by depression at 17.7% and attention deficit disorder at 17.7%. Among victims, Attention deficit disorder was also common at 14.4%, followed by depression at 9.6% and anxiety at 8.7%.
Children involved in bullying and victimization were also more likely to have had contact with a mental health clinician both throughout their lifetime and over the course of the last three months. Kumpulainen et al. (2001) hypothesize that children involved in bullying are more often escalated to mental health clinicians because parents are highly concerned and/or irritated by their child’s involvement. If the researchers’ prediction is accurate, children whose mental health concerns are less visible and/or irritating to parents may not as easily be escalated to a professional intervention.
Is it surprising that depression was more common in the bullies and bully-victims than in those victims who do not bully others? Could it mean that more of the “victims-only” had effective coping skills or social support than did the group of their bully peers? On the other hand, it may indicate that depression (or depression on top of other psychiatric conditions) can more easily lead youth to bully others. Did the results of the study present a more holistic understanding of the bullying dynamic?
Kovacs, M. 1992. Children’s Depression Inventory. New York: MHS.
Kumpulainen, K., Rasanen, E., Puura, K. (2001). Psychiatric disorders and the use of mental health services among children involved in bullying. Aggressive Behavior, 27: 102-110.
Rutter, M. 1967. A children’s behaviour questionnaire for completion by teachers: preliminary findings. Journal of Child Psychology Psychiatry 8:1–11.
Rutter, M, Tizard, J.R., & Whitmore, K. 1970. Education, health and behaviour. London: Longmans.
Monday August 13th 2012 - NYBH Staff
The Student Perspective
Previous studies have suggested a positive correlation between students with special needs and an increased likelihood to both bullying others and victimization. In other words, kids with disabilities are more likely than their non-disabled peers to be bullied by other children, and they are also more likely to bully others. Findings from investigations of these relationships thus far, however, have been based solely on teacher and parent reports. Therefore, a group of researchers decided to examine the relationship between children with disabilities and the bully/victim relationship from the perspective of students (Swearer, Wang, Maag, Siebecker, & Frerichs, 2012), which they contend is a much needed perspective in the canon of research around this topic.
In 2006, Van Cleave and Davis analyzed data from the National Survey of Children's Health and found that “Students with behavioral, emotional, or developmental problems were two times more likely to be a victim of bullying, three times more likely to bully others, and three times more likely to be a bully–victim than children without special health care needs” (Swearer et al., 2012, p. 504). The recent study conducted by Swearer et al. (2012) was an attempt to confirm the aforementioned statistics through students’ self-reports and thereby also better understand participants’ self-awareness about the bullying dynamic.
Types of Disabilities
Participants in the study included children and adolescents in grades 5 through 9 among elementary and middle schools in a Midwestern area. Special education status was determined through school records, and participants in this category were further specified by type of disability and whether the disability was visible or invisible. Visible disabilities include speech, language, and hearing impairments and mild mental handicaps. Participants were given the Paci?c-Rim Bullying Measure (PRB) (Taki et al., 2006) by teachers and researchers during the school day and were subsequently categorized by researchers as bullies, victims, or bully-victims (those who both bully and are victims of bullying). Children who reported no incidents of bullying or victimization were not categorized as any of the aforementioned.
Implications for Preventing Bullying/Victimization
The results of the study described herein (Swearer et al., 2012) are consistent with previous research based on parent and teacher reports; the data show children with behavioral and visible disabilities as most likely to bully others and be victimized by bullies. Students with invisible special needs, such as learning disabilities, report less bullying and victimization than students with behavioral disabilities; however, they consistently report higher rates of bullying and victimization than their peers in general education. These findings have significant implications for prevention and intervention programs, such as the importance of fostering a school culture that is accepting, positive, and inclusive for all students. Teachers and administrators should exercise caution not to single out or further alienate students in special education.
Swearer, S., Wang, C., Maag, J., Siebecker, A., & Frerichs, L. (2012). Understanding the bullying dynamic among students in special and general education. Journal of School Psychology, 50: 503-520.
Taki, M., Slee, P., Sim, H., Hymel, S., Pepler, D., & Swearer, S. M. (2006). An international study of bullying in five Pacific Rim countries. Paper presented at the biennial meeting of the International Society for the Study of Behavioral Development, Melbourne, Australia.
Van Cleave, J. & Davis, M. M. (2006). Bullying and peer victimization among children with special health care needs. Pediatrics, 118: 1212–1219.