The Influence of Violent Behavior and Victimization at School on Psychological Distress: The Role of Parents and Teachers

Article excerpt

Since the 1980s, research analyzing behavioral problems at school among school-aged children and adolescents has been increasing. Most of the research focused on victimization problems has repeatedly shown that victimized students exhibit some psychosomatic symptoms and poor psychological adjustment (Alsaker & Olweus, 1992; Juvonen, Nishina, & Graham, 2000; Kupersmidt, Coie, & Dodge, 1990). Recent studies, for instance, report that depression and stress in particular are common among adolescents involved in victimization problems (Guterman, Hahm, & Cameron, 2002; Kumpulainen, Rasanen, & Puura, 2001; Hawker & Boulton, 2000). Previous research that focused on violent students, however, has shown little co-occurrence between violent behavior and psychological problems in adolescence (Angold & Costello, 1993). Along this line, depressive symptoms and violent behavior have been found to co-occur only in about 5% to 8% of adolescents (Garnefski & Diekstra, 1997; Ge, Best, Conger, & Simons, 1996). One possible explanation is that violent behavior at this stage of life may be normative and even beneficial for social adjustment in some adolescents (Little, Brauner, Jones, Nock, & Hawley, 2003). As Hawley and Vaughn (2003) report, aggressive students are often important figures in their peer group and tend to enjoy benefits of social inclusion. However, this is not the case for a relatively small group of adolescents who are at a particular high risk for future maladjustment (Ferdinand, Stijnen, Verhulst, & Van der Reijden, 1999), and both behavioral and psychological problems. Other variables, therefore, should be taken into account to understand the link between these adjustment problems in adolescence.

In this sense, prior studies have examined the association betweren some family variables and children's behavioral and psychological problems. For example, a negative family environment has been found to be a risk factor for peer victimization and violent behavioir at school (Gerard & Buehler, 1999; Smith, Bowers, Binney, & Cowie, 1993), as well as for psychological problems in adolescents (Cummings & Davies, 1994; Formoso, Gonzales, & Aiken, 2000; Garber, 1996). In particular, high levels of family conflict (Ary, Duncan, Biglan, Metzler, Noell, & Smolkowski, 1999; Crawford-Brown, 1999; Cummings, Goeke-Morey & Papp, 2003), negative communications with parents (Liu, 2003; Loeber, Drinkwater, Yin, Anderson, Schmidt, & Crawford, 2000; Stevens, De Bourdeaudhuij, & Van Oost, 2002), and lack of parental support (Barrera & Li, 1996; Sheeber, Hops, Alpert, Davis, & Andrews, 1997), are important influential factors in the development of behavioral and psychological problems among adolescents. In addition, some studies indicate that when behavioral problems co-occur with psychological distress, adolescents usually reveal an especially negative family environment (Olsson, NordstrSm, Arinell, &von Knorring, 1999; Overbeek, Biesecker, Stattin, Engels, & Meeus, 2002). In contrast, close parent-child relationships characterized by warmth, acceptance, and positive communication, perform a protective function against violent behavior, depression, and anxiety (Beam, Gil-Rivas, Greenberger, & Chen, 2002; Buist & Dekovic, 2004; Dadds, Sanders, Morrison, & Rebgetz, 1992; Gil-Rivas, Greenberger, Chen, Montero, & Lopez-Lena, 2003; Kenny, Gallagher, Alvarez-Salvat, & Silsby, 2002).

Some previous research has also analyzed the relationship between teachers and students who are having behavioral and psychological problems, pointing out that adolescents with high levels of behavioral problems have more negative interactions with teachers (Fry, 1983; Jack, Shores, Denny, Gunter, DeBriere, & DePaepe, 1996), which results in a poor student-teacher relationship (Blankemeyer, Flannery, & Vazsonyi, 2002). Furthermore, teachers' responses to these adolescents are usually punishment (Coie & Koeppl, 1990), and lack of warmth and encouragement (Birch & Ladd, 1998). …