Associations Between Dimensions of School Engagement and Bullying Victimization and Perpetration Among Middle School Students

Abstract

Few studies have examined whether dimensions of school engagement are differentially associated with bullying victimization and perpetration, behaviors that undermine the capacity to achieve academically and increase risk for depression and school dropout. We investigated associations between affective, cognitive, and behavioral engagement upon entry into middle school and four types of bullying behaviors (i.e., relational and physical victimization and perpetration) 6 months later. Our sample was comprised of an ethnically diverse cohort of students attending middle schools characterized by lower than state average standardized test scores and located in socioeconomically vulnerable communities. Results from multivariable logistic regression models that included all three measures of engagement suggest that affective engagement reduced the odds of the three types of bullying behaviors that increased over the study period, regardless of sex or ethnic group. Tests of moderation by sex yielded some differences in the association between behavioral engagement and bullying behaviors. Findings highlight the potential promise of strengthening bonds between students and teachers as a strategy to reduce bullying and encourage healthy development in under resourced contexts.

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Funding

Funding was provided by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Grant No. U48DP005011).

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Correspondence to Myriam Forster.

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Forster, M., Gower, A.L., Gloppen, K. et al. Associations Between Dimensions of School Engagement and Bullying Victimization and Perpetration Among Middle School Students. School Mental Health 12, 296–307 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12310-019-09350-0

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Keywords

  • Physical bullying
  • Relational bullying
  • School engagement
  • Middle school