Elledge, L. C., Smith, D. E., Kilpatrick, C. T., McClain, C. M., & Moore, T. M. (2019). The associations between bullying victimization and internalizing distress, suicidality, and substance use in Jamaican adolescents: The moderating role of parental involvement. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 36(7), 2202-2220.
Summarized by Jeremy Astesano
Notes of Interest:
- Bullying can have significant impacts on children in many ways: psychosomatically (headaches, stomach aches, etc.), in addition to psychological difficulties (anxiety, depression, suicidality).
- This study was conducted on a group of Jamaican youth. The authors report that there is evidence for Jamaican youth experience bullying in school at a disproportionate rate compared with other cultures (with one study indicating an incredibly high percentage of 93.4 percent of students witnessing bullying of peers in school), making them a highly important study population.
- The present study measured and assessed the interplay of experiencing bullying against measures of risk behavior, internalizing stress, and parent involvement.
- The authors found that boys and girls experience of bullying was positively related to loneliness and sleep difficulty due to worry. Boys bullying victimization was also positively associated with thoughts about, plans to attempt, and actual suicide attempts, as was the case for girls in thoughts and plans of suicide.
- Smoking frequency was also correlated to bullying victimization for boys and girls, although it was stronger for boys. Girls showed a positive association between victimization and drinking.
- This study reminds us of the incredibly detrimental effects that bullying can have on the mental and physical well-being of youth. While the exact connection between parental involvement and mitigation of risk behaviors/suicide/functional problems is still unclear, an array of effects demonstrate that adult intervention and support is necessary to reducing these effects.
Introduction (Reprinted from the Abstract)
The present study investigated whether bullying victimization and parental involvement were associated with internalizing distress, suicidal thoughts and behavior, and substance use in Jamaican adolescents as well as whether parental involvement moderated the relation between bullying victimization and measures of psychological and behavioral distress. Analyses were based on a sample of 1,595 adolescents who were participating in the 2010 Global School-Based Student Health Survey. Data were collected using a complex survey design. Regression models were estimated using weighted data, which allowed us to draw conclusions about the population of Jamaican adolescents. Consistent with findings from international studies, bullying victimization was uniquely and positively associated with feelings of loneliness, sleep difficulties due to worry, smoking frequency, and suicidality for both male and female adolescents as well as with alcohol use frequency for female adolescents. Our pattern of findings also suggested that parental involvement is a more robust correlate of psychological and behavioral adjustment for female adolescents. Female adolescents who reported higher levels of parental involvement were less lonely and less likely to consider or plan suicide. For boys, parental involvement was only negatively related to loneliness. Finally, we found evidence that parental involvement moderated the relation between bullying victimization and cigarette use and considering suicide, although the latter finding was at the level of a nonsignificant trend. Our findings suggest parental involvement may attenuate the relation between bullying victimization and considering suicide but may strengthen the relation between bullying victimization and smoking. We discuss our findings in the context of Jamaican cultural socialization and with an appreciation for the social challenges faced by adolescents experiencing bullying victimization.
This study investigated the associations between bullying victimization and psychological and behavioral outcomes as well as the moderating role of parental involvement in a sample of Jamaican adolescents. This is the first study that we are aware of that has empirically investigated the connections among bullying victimization, parental involvement, and child outcomes specifically in a Jamaican sample. Consistent with other international studies on bullying victimization, our findings indicated that bullying victimization is associated with significant adverse psychological and behavioral outcomes for male and female Jamaican adolescents (e.g., Takizawa et al., 2014; UNICEF, 2014a). Bullying victimization was uniquely and positively associated with feelings of loneliness, sleep difficulties due to worry, smoking frequency, and suicidality for both male and female adolescents as well as alcohol use for female adolescents.
In addition, although bullying victimization was significantly related to smoking frequency for both male and female adolescents, the relation between bullying victimization and smoking frequency was significantly stronger for male adolescents. This finding could suggest that when male adolescents are exposed to a chronic stressor, they are more likely than girls to turn to cigarettes as a method for coping with that stressor. A similar pattern emerged when examining the relation between bullying victimization and considering suicide. The relation between bullying victimization and considering suicide was significant for boys and the size of the relation was significantly stronger for boys than for girls. It is important to note that a significant sex difference did not arise when examining 2214 Journal of Social and Personal Relationships 36(7) the relation between bullying victimization and planning or attempting suicide, but the relation was stronger for boys in both cases. Our findings suggest that Jamaican male adolescents who experience bullying victimization may be slightly more prone to have thoughts of suicide and suicidal behavior than female adolescents.
We also found some evidence that the effect of parental involvement, as well as the interaction between bullying victimization and parental involvement, varied as a function of sex. Parental involvement was a more robust correlate of psychological and behavioral adjustment for female adolescents. Girls who reported higher levels of parental involvement experienced lower levels of loneliness and were less likely to consider or plan suicide. For boys, parental involvement was only negatively related to loneliness. Moreover, there was evidence that the strength of the relationship between girls’ bullying victimization and smoking frequency was influenced by parental involvement. Adolescent girls who reported higher levels of bullying victimization were more likely to smoke cigarettes at moderate and high levels of parental involvement, but the relation between bullying victimization and smoking frequency was not significant when parental involvement was low. A different pattern of findings emerged when looking at the extent to which parental involvement moderated the relation between bullying victimization and considering suicide. Although the interaction was only marginally significant (p ¼ .056), parental involvement appeared to serve a protective function for female Jamaican adolescents. Bullying victimization was only positively associated with considering suicide when parental involvement was low, but not when scores on parental involvement were above the mean. Taken together, our pattern of findings suggests that parental involvement could be more helpful when Jamaican adolescent girl’s level of distress is internal (i.e., loneliness, worry, and suicidal thoughts) but less helpful or potentially counterproductive when distress manifests externally (i.e., smoking). In fact, parental involvement was not significantly related to any behavioral outcome for boys or girls when considered as a first-order predictor, and parental involvement appears to exacerbate smoking for girls who experience bullying victimization. It is important to note that although the pattern of significant relations between parental involvement and behavioral and psychological outcomes was different for male and female adolescents, the difference in the size of the relations between parental involvement and these outcomes was not statistically significant.
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