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.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Afifi, T. O., McMillan, K. A., Asmundson, G. J. G., Pietrzak, R. H., & Sareen, J. (2011). An examination of the relation between conduct disorder, childhood and adulthood traumatic events, and posttraumatic stress disorder in a nationally representative sample. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 45, 1564–1572. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpsychires.2011.08.005.
Allwood, M. A., & Widom, C. S. (2013). Child abuse and neglect, developmental role attainment, and adult arrests. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, 50, 551–578. https://doi.org/10.1177/0022427812471177.
Almeida, D. M., Wethington, E., & Chandler, A. L. (1999). Daily transmission of tensions between marital dyads and parent–child dyads. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 61, 49–61. https://doi.org/10.2307/353882.
Attachment and Trauma Network (2019). ATN’s Trauma-Sensitive Schools. Retrieved from https://creatingtraumasensitiveschools.org/
Baldry, A. C., Sorrentino, A., & Farrington, D. P. (2019). Post-traumatic stress symptoms among Italian preadolescents involved in school and cyber bullying and victimization. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 28, 2358–2364. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-018-1122-4.
Balistreri, K. S., & Alvira-Hammond, M. (2016). Adverse childhood experiences, family functioning and adolescent health and emotional well-being. Public Health, 132, 72–78. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.puhe.2015.10.034.
Bandura, A. (1977). Social learning theory. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall.
Barber, B. A., Kohl, K. L., Kassam-Adams, N., & Gold, J. I. (2014). Acute stress, depression, and anxiety symptoms among English and Spanish speaking children with recent trauma exposure. Journal of Clinical Psychology in Medical Settings, 21, 66–71. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10880-013-9382-z.
Baron, R. M., & Kenny, D. A. (1986). The moderator–mediator variable distinction in social psychological research: conceptual, strategic, and statistical considerations. Journal of Personality & Social Psychology, 51, 1173–1182. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3522.214.171.1243.
Chen, J. K., & Astor, R. A. (2012). School variables as mediators of personal and family factors on school violence in Taiwanese junior high schools. Youth & Society, 44, 175–200. https://doi.org/10.1037/e633562009-001.
Chen, J. K., & Avi Astor, R. (2010). School violence in Taiwan: examining how Western risk factors predict school violence in an Asian culture. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 25, 1388–1410. https://doi.org/10.1177/0886260509354576.
Chen, S. H., Lin, Y. H., Tseng, H. M., & Wu, Y. C. (2002). Post-traumatic stress reactions in children and adolescents one year after the 1999 Taiwan Chi-Chi earthquake. Journal of the Chinese Institute of Engineers, 25, 597–608. https://doi.org/10.1080/02533839.2002.9670734.
Cook, A., Spinazzola, J., Ford, J., Lanktree, C., Blaustein, M., Cloitre, M., et al. (2017). Complex trauma in children and adolescents. Psychiatric Annals, 35, 390–398.
Durbin, J., & Watson, G. S. (1951). Testing for serial correlation in least squares regression. II. Biometrika, 38, 159–177. https://doi.org/10.2307/2332391.
Erel, O., & Burman, B. (1995). Interrelatedness of marital relations and parent-child relations: a meta-analytic review. Psychological Bulletin, 118, 108–132. https://doi.org/10.1037/0033-2909.118.1.108.
Furlong, M. J., Greif, J. L., Bates, M. P., Whipple, A. D., Jimenez, T. C., & Morrison, R. (2005). Development of the California school climate and safety survey-short form. Psychology in the Schools, 42, 137–149. https://doi.org/10.1002/pits.20053.
Garnefski, N., & Kraaij, V. (2014). Bully victimization and emotional problems in adolescents: moderation by specific cognitive coping strategies? Journal of Adolescence, 37, 1153–1160. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.adolescence.2014.07.005.
Graham, S. (2010). What educators need to know about bullying behaviors. Phi Delta Kappan, 92, 66–69. https://doi.org/10.1177/003172171009200112.
Hair, J. F., Anderson, R. E., Tatham, R. L., & Black, W. C. (1998). Multivariate data analysis. New Jersey: Englewood Cliff.
Harford, T. C., Yi, H.-y., & Grant, B. F. (2014). Associations between childhood abuse and interpersonal aggression and suicide attempt among U.S. adults in a national study. Child Abuse & Neglect, 38, 1389–1398. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chiabu.2014.02.011.
Kaltiala-Heino, R., Rimpelä, M., Rantanen, P., & Rimpelä, A. (2000). Bullying at school—an indicator of adolescents at risk for mental disorders. Journal of Adolescence, 23, 661–674. https://doi.org/10.1006/jado.2000.0351.
Kaukiainen, A., Björkqvist, K., Lagerspetz, K., Österman, K., Salmivalli, C., Rothberg, S., & Ahlbom, A. (1999). The relationships between social intelligence, empathy, and three types of aggression. Aggressive Behavior, 25, 81–89.
Klomek, A. B., Marrocco, F., Kleinman, M., Schonfeld, I. S., & Gould, M. S. (2007). Bullying, depression, and suicidality in adolescents. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 46, 40–49.
Krishnakumar, A., & Buehler, C. (2000). Interparental conflict and parenting behaviors: a meta-analytic review. Family Relations, 49, 24–44. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1741-3729.2000.00025.x.
Landis, J. R., & Koch, G. G. (1977). The measurement of observer agreement for categorical data. Biometrics, 159–174. https://doi.org/10.2307/2529310.
Lereya, S. T., Samara, M., & Wolke, D. (2013). Parenting behavior and the risk of becoming a victim and a bully/victim: a meta-analysis study. Child Abuse & Neglect, 37, 1091–1108. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chiabu.2013.03.001.
Luk, J. W., Wang, J., & Simons-Morton, B. G. (2010). Bullying victimization and substance use among US adolescents: mediation by depression. Prevention Science, 11, 355–359. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11121-010-0179-0.
Luke, N., & Banerjee, R. (2013). Differentiated associations between childhood maltreatment experiences and social understanding: a meta-analysis and systematic review. Developmental Review, 33, 1–28. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.dr.2012.10.001.
McMillan, K. A., Thorisdottir, A. S., & Asmundson, G. J. (2016). Psychiatric correlates of past year adult bullying behaviors: findings from the National Epidemiology Survey of Alcohol and Related Conditions. Psychiatry Research, 246, 745–749. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psychres.2016.07.065.
Modecki, K. L., Minchin, J., Harbaugh, A. G., Guerra, N. G., & Runions, K. C. (2014). Bullying prevalence across contexts: a meta-analysis measuring cyber and traditional bullying. The Journal of Adolescent Health, 55, 602–611. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jadohealth.2014.06.007.
Mumford, E. A., Taylor, B. G., Berg, M., Liu, W., & Miesfeld, N. (2019). The social anatomy of adverse childhood experiences and aggression in a representative sample of young adults in the US. Child Abuse & Neglect, 88, 15–27. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chiabu.2018.10.016.
National Association of School Psychologists (2019). Trauma-sensitive schools. Retrieved from https://www.nasponline.org/resources-and-publications/resources-and-podcasts/mental-health/trauma-sensitive-schools
Olweus, D. (2013). School bullying: development and some important challenges. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, 9, 751–780. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-clinpsy-050212-185516.
Parke, R. D., MacDonald, K. B., Beitel, A., & Bhavnagri, N. (1988). The role of the family in the development of peer relationships. In R. D. Peters & R. J. McMahon (Eds.), Social learning and systems approaches to marriage and the family (pp. 17–44). Philadelphia: Brunner/Mazel.
Patterson, G. R. (1982). Coercive family process: A social learning approach (Vol.3). Eugene: Castalia.
Perez, N. M., Jennings, W. G., & Baglivio, M. T. (2018). A path to serious, violent, chronic delinquency: the harmful aftermath of adverse childhood experiences. Crime & Delinquency, 64, 3–25. https://doi.org/10.1177/0011128716684806.
Reed, K. P., Nugent, W., & Cooper, R. L. (2015). Testing a path model of relationships between gender, age, and bullying victimization and violent behavior, substance abuse, depression, suicidal ideation, and suicide attempts in adolescents. Children and Youth Services Review, 55, 128–137. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.childyouth.2015.05.016.
Riley, A. W. (2004). Evidence that school-age children can self-report on their health. Ambulatory Pediatrics, 4, 371–376. https://doi.org/10.1367/A03-178R.1.
Rodkin, P. C., Farmer, T. W., Pearl, R., & Acker, R. V. (2006). They’re cool: Social status and peer group supports for aggressive boys and girls. Social Development, 15, 175–204.
Runyan, D. K., Curtis, P., Hunter, W., Black, M. M., Kotch, J. B., Bangdiwala, S., et al. (1998). LONGSCAN: a consortium for longitudinal studies of maltreatment and the life course of children. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 3, 275–285.
Ryan, J. P., Williams, A. B., & Courtney, M. E. (2013). Adolescent neglect, juvenile delinquency and the risk of recidivism. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 42, 454–465. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-013-9906-8.
Smith, P. C., Schmidt, S. M., Allensworth-Davies, D., & Saitz, R. (2009). Primary care validation of a single-question alcohol screening test. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 24, 783–788. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11606-009-0928-6.
Smith, P. C., Schmidt, S. M., Allensworth-Davies, D., & Saitz, R. (2010). A single-question screening test for drug use in primary care. Archives of Internal Medicine, 170, 1155–1160. https://doi.org/10.1001/archinternmed.2010.140.
Sobel, M. E. (1982). Asymptotic confidence intervals for indirect effects in structural equation models. Sociological Methodology, 13, 290–312.
Stapinski, L. A., Araya, R., Heron, J., Montgomery, A. A., & Stallard, P. (2015). Peer victimization during adolescence: concurrent and prospective impact on symptoms of depression and anxiety. Anxiety, Stress, & Coping, 28, 105–120. https://doi.org/10.1080/10615806.2014.962023.
Steinberg, A. M., Brymer, M. J., Decker, K. B., & Pynoos, R. S. (2004). The University of California at Los Angeles post-traumatic stress disorder reaction index. Current Psychiatry Reports, 6, 96–100. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11920-004-0048-2.
Swearer, S. M., Song, S. Y., Cary, P. T., Eagle, J. W., & Mickelson, W. T. (2001). Psychosocial correlates in bullying and victimization: the relationship between depression, anxiety, and bully/victim status. Journal of Emotional Abuse, 2, 95–121. https://doi.org/10.1300/j135v02n02_07.
Swearer, S. M., Espelage, D. L., Vaillancourt, T., & Hymel, S. (2010). What can be done about school bullying? Linking research to educational practice. Educational Researcher, 39, 38–34. https://doi.org/10.3102/0013189x09357622.
Tabachnick, B. G., Fidell, L. S., & Ullman, J. B. (2007). Using multivariate statistics (Vol. 5). Boston: Pearson.
Thunfors, P., & Cornell, D. (2008). The popularity of middle school bullies. Journal of School Violence, 7, 65–82.
Turcotte Benedict, F., Vivier, P. M., & Gjelsvik, A. (2015). Mental health and bullying in the United States among children aged 6 to 17 years. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 30, 782–795. https://doi.org/10.1177/0886260514536279.
Vaillancourt, T., Hymel, S., & McDougall, P. (2003). Bullying is power: Implications for school-based intervention strategies. Journal of Applied School Psychology, 19, 157–176.
Varni, J. W., Limbers, C. A., & Burwinkle, T. M. (2007). How young can children reliably and validly self-report their health-related quality of life? An analysis of 8,591 children across age subgroups with the PedsQL™ 4.0 Generic Core Scales. Health and Quality of Life Outcomes, 5, 1. https://doi.org/10.1186/1477-7525-5-1.
Walsh, C. A., MacMillan, H. L., Trocmé, N., Jamieson, E., & Boyle, M. H. (2008). Measurement of victimization in adolescence: development and validation of the childhood experiences of violence questionnaire. Child Abuse & Neglect, 32, 1037–1057. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chiabu.2008.05.003.
Wei, H. S., Williams, J. H., Chen, J. K., & Chang, H. Y. (2010). The effects of individual characteristics, teacher practice, and school organizational factors on students’ bullying: a multilevel analysis of public middle schools in Taiwan. Children and Youth Services Review, 32, 137–143. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.childyouth.2009.08.004.
Zimmer-Gembeck, M. J., Geiger, T. C., & Crick, N. R. (2005). Relational and physical aggression, prosocial behavior, and peer relations: gender moderation and bidirectional associations. The Journal of Early Adolescence, 25, 421–452.
Zolotor, A. J., Runyan, D. K., Dunne, M. P., Jain, D., Peturs, H. P., Ramirez, C., et al. (2009). ISPCAN child abuse screening tool children’s version (ICAST-C): Instrument development and multi-national pilot testing. Child Abuse & Neglect, 33, 833–841. https://doi.org/10.1037/t27249-000.
This work was supported by the National Taiwan University (NTU) Children and Family Research Center.
Conflict of Interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
About this article
Cite this article
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
- Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs)
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Child maltreatment