Psychosocial Adjustment in Early Adulthood: The Role of Childhood Teasing and Father Support

Article excerpt

In this study we examined the relationships among recalled childhood teasing and father support, and current psychosocial distress in 226 undergraduate students. Participants were administered the Revised Teasing Questionnaire, Father Support Scale, Beck Depression Inventory, State-Trait Anxiety Inventory--Trait Version, Brief-Fear of Negative Evaluation Scale, and UCLA Loneliness Scale. Pearson product-moment correlations indicated that childhood father support was negatively related to current depressive symptomatology, general anxiety, and loneliness in adulthood, as well as the frequency of and distress related to childhood teasing. The frequency of childhood teasing and distress related to such teasing was positively associated with current depressive symptomatology, general anxiety, fear of negative evaluation, and loneliness. Contrary to our hypothesis, father support did not moderate the relationships between teasing and psychosocial adjustment indices. The role of childhood father support and teasing in healthy psychosocial development is discussed.

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Over the past decade, an increasing body of research has emerged examining the role of bullying in children's development. Bullying has traditionally been defined as repeated exposure to negative actions by a peer or group of peers (Olweus, 1993). Teasing, a specific form of bullying is defined as verbal assaults about appearance, personality, or behavior (Roth, Coles, & Heimberg, 2002). Importantly, this particular form of maltreatment is thought to occur with relatively greater frequency than physical assaults (Storch & Masia, 2001) and is related to negative psychosocial adjustment in children and adolescents (e.g., depression, anxiety, loneliness; see Hawker & Boulton, 2000 for a review).

Given the extant evidence that teasing is related to negative psychological distress, systematic investigation into psychosocial factors that may protect against maladjustment is warranted. One such factor that has received recent empirical attention is father support. There are several reasons why father support may protect against psychological distress related to teasing. Father involvement and support may present in the form of cognitive assistance (e.g., helping to problem-solve a dilemma), emotional acceptance (e.g., empathy, understanding), or the provision of tangible assistance (e.g., financial support; Amato, 1994; Kahn & Antonucci, 1980). In addition, investigations into the absence of a paternal figure in the household have found increased risk for school drop-out, delinquency, and poor academic achievement, presumably from a lack of father support and guidance, and fewer financial resources for single parents (Dornbusch et al., 1985; Mulkey, Crain, & Harrington, 1992).

Two cross-sectional studies have examined the role of father support as a moderator of the relationship between bullying and psychosocial adjustment (Flouri & Buchanan, 2002; Rigby, 2000). In a sample of 1344 boys aged 13 to 19 from the United Kingdom, Flouri and Buchanan (2002) found that, independent of the other, father support was positively related to life satisfaction whereas bullying was negatively related to life satisfaction. An interaction between father support and bullying was also found such that bullied children who had low levels of father support reported greater adjustment problems than bullied children with supportive fathers. In a mixed gender sample of 845 children aged 12 to 16, Rigby (2000) found that for both boys and girls, father support was positively related to psych osocial adjustment whereas bullying was negatively related to psychosocial adjustment. In contrast to Flouri and Buchanan's (2002) findings, father support did not statistically moderate the relations between bullying and psychosocial adjustment. Notably, in both this study, as well as previous research (e.g., Amato, 1994), father support was found to be equally important in understanding the well being of both boys and girls. …