Academic journal article School Psychology Review

Perceptions of the Frequency and Importance of Social Support by Students Classified as Victims, Bullies, and Bully/victims in an Urban Middle School

Academic journal article School Psychology Review

Perceptions of the Frequency and Importance of Social Support by Students Classified as Victims, Bullies, and Bully/victims in an Urban Middle School

Article excerpt

Abstract. The present study examined the perceptions of the frequency and importance of social support for students classified as bullies, victims, bully-victims, and comparison students (nonbully/nonvictim). The sample included 499 sixth-through eighth-grade students from a predominantly Hispanic urban middle school. Students completed an anonymous survey that included 18 questions on both the receipt and provision of bullying behavior and were categorized into four groups (bully, victim, bully/victim, and comparison). Perceptions of both the frequency and importance of social support from parents, teachers, classmates, close friends, and the school were assessed via the Child and Adolescent Social Support Scale--Revised (CASSS-R; Malecki, Demaray, & Elliott, 2000). The goals of the current study were to (a) present descriptive data on bullying behavior; (b) investigate differences in the frequency and importance ratings of perceived social support by bully status (bully, victim, bully/victim, and comparison); and (c) investigate what sources of support were most related to victim, bully, bully/victim, and comparison students' scores. Significant differences were found among the four groups on both the frequency and importance of total social support and support from the various sources. Results and implications are discussed.


There is a significant presence of bullying in public schools in America (Batsche & Knoff, 1994). Thus, understanding bullying and ways to prevent bullying behavior in schools is critical. Although there are many negative behaviors or factors related to bullying, another way to further an understanding of bullying and victimization is to understand what positive factors, or their absences, are associated with bullying behaviors. Social sup port is often conceptualized as a protective factor in students' lives that may be associated with many positive benefits. Although some research has been focused on investigating social support and bullying behaviors, the research has not been extensive.

Social Support

Social support is defined as a set of perceived general or specific supportive behaviors that contribute to a person's physical and mental well-being generally and/or as a buffer for someone under stress (Malecki & Demaray, 2002a). Having low levels of perceived social support can be related to a variety of poor psychological (Compas, Slavin, Wagner, & Vannatta, 1986; Forman, 1988; Gamefski & Diekstra, 1996), social (Bender & Losel, 1997; Demaray & Elliott, 2001; Lifrak, McKay, Rostain, Alterman, & O'Brien, 1997; Malecki & Elliott, 1999), academic (Levitt, Guacci-Franco, & Levitt, 1994; Malecki & Demaray, 2001; Richman, Rosenfeld, & Bowen, 1998), and health (Frey & Rothlisberger, 1996) outcomes.

A popular model of social support proposed by Tardy (1985) describes several elements of social support. First, social support comes from people in one's social network and for students, may include parents, other family members, teachers, classmates, close friends, neighbors, and the school. Additionally, social support can take many forms such as emotional or caring support (listening), instrumental support (providing time or resources), informational support (providing needed information), and appraisal support (providing feedback). Social support can be given to someone or received, and can be perceived to be available and/or actually used. Finally, when asked about social support, one can provide a description of that support (e.g., frequency) or provide an evaluation (e.g., importance) of the support they perceive or receive (Tardy, 1985).

There is evidence that social support may differ for males and females and for students of varying ethnicities. Regarding gender, girls have been found to perceive higher levels of support than boys from most sources including teachers, classmates, and close friends (Demaray & Malecki, 2002a; Dunn, Putallaz, Sheppard, & Lindstrom, 1987; Furman & Buhrmester, 1985). …

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