Associations Between Child Maltreatment, Dysfunctional Family Environment, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Children’s Bullying Perpetration in a National Representative Sample in Taiwan

Abstract

This study aims to examine the associations between child maltreatment (physical and psychological neglect and abuse), dysfunctional family environment (inter-parental violence, parental substance abuse), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and children’s bullying perpetration, and the potential mediating effect of PTSD in the associations. We collected data using a self-report questionnaire with a nation-wide, proportionately stratified random sample of 6233 fourth-grade students in Taiwan. We performed hierarchical regression analysis and mediation analysis to test the research hypotheses. The results indicate that parental substance abuse, physical and psychological neglect, physical and psychological abuse, witness of inter-parental violence, and PTSD are positively associated with child bullying (p < .001), after controlling for gender. These variables, referred to as adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), explain 23% of the variance, and the results are statistically significant. PTSD fully mediated the relationship between psychological neglect and child bullying and partially mediated the associations between other ACE variables and child bullying. Children with higher levels of bullying perpetration reported more family violence and neglect at home and parental substance abuse problems. These ACEs also indirectly affect child bullying through PTSD. Among school-age children in Taiwan, children who had these adverse experiences were more likely to have PTSD symptoms, which in turn can lead to externalizing problems that increase the risk of exhibiting bullying perpetration toward others. In addition to behavioral modeling and corrections as strategies to combat bullying in schools, prevention and intervention efforts should address and screen for ACEs and tackle psychological problems.

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This work was supported by the National Taiwan University (NTU) Children and Family Research Center.

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Hsieh, YP., Shen, A.CT., Hwa, HL. et al. Associations Between Child Maltreatment, Dysfunctional Family Environment, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Children’s Bullying Perpetration in a National Representative Sample in Taiwan. J Fam Viol 36, 27–36 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10896-020-00144-6

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Keywords

  • Bullying
  • Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs)
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Child maltreatment
  • Trauma-sensitive