Academic journal article School Psychology Review

Validity of Three School Climate Scales to Assess Bullying, Aggressive Attitudes, and Help Seeking

Academic journal article School Psychology Review

Validity of Three School Climate Scales to Assess Bullying, Aggressive Attitudes, and Help Seeking

Article excerpt

Abstract. The School Climate Bullying Survey (Cornell & Sheras, 2003) is a self-report survey used to measure attitudes and behaviors associated with school bullying. Two studies were conducted to examine the valid use of its three school climate scales: (a) Prevalence of Teasing and Bullying, (b) Aggressive Attitudes, and (c) Willingness to Seek Help. In Study 1, exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses were performed with a sample of 2,111 students from four middle schools and established reasonable fit for 20 items with their hypothesized scales. Multigroup confirmatory factor analyses revealed good overall model fit. In Study 2, regression analyses using school-level measures aggregated from 7,318 ninth-grade students attending 291 Virginia public high schools indicated that the three scales were related to meaningful criteria for school disorder.

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Bullying prevention programs attempt to modify school climate by changing student attitudes that promote bullying and fostering behaviors that prevent it (Bonds & Stoker, 2000; Olweus & Limber, 2000). More specifically, these programs aim to reduce aggressive attitudes among students and encourage them to be more accepting of classmates from diverse backgrounds. Furthermore, they encourage students and teachers to recognize bullying as a serious problem and attempt to increase student willingness to seek help for victims. The School Climate Bullying Survey (SCBS) was developed to assess these important features of school climate with three scales: Prevalence of Teasing and Bullying, Aggressive Attitudes, and Willingness to Seek Help (Cornell & Sheras, 2003). The purpose of this study was to investigate the construct validity of these scales through exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses and to support their criterion-related validity through correlations with independently measured school characteristics.

School climate can be defined as the quality and frequency of interactions among adults and students (Emmons, 1993) and encompasses multiple aspects of the school's social environment, such as student perceptions of the fairness and strictness of school rules or qualities of student-teacher relations (Kuperminc, Leadbeater, Emmons, & Blatt, 1997). The quality of school climate has important implications for student adjustment and learning (Brand, Felner, Shim, Seitsinger, & Dumas, 2003). In a longitudinal study of 188 middle schools, Brand and colleagues (2003) found better socioemotional adjustment among students reporting a more positive school climate, as indicated by higher peer commitment to academic achievement and prosocial behavior, greater teacher support, greater safety, and higher levels of structure and clarity in rules.

School climate has particular relevance for the prevention of bullying and teasing. Victims of bullying struggle with student absenteeism, poor academic achievement, social isolation, and internalizing problems that persist into high school (Nansel et al., 2001; Rigby, 2003). Unnever and Cornell (2003) described a "culture of bullying" in middle schools where there is a widespread perception that bullying can take place without intervention or interruption. This type of school climate empowers bullies to act aggressively without fear of sanction, encourages passivity in bystanders (Unnever and Cornell, 2003), and creates an environment in which victims of bullying see no reason to report their victimization or expect assistance (Olweus & Limber, 2000). From this perspective, a comprehensive approach to bullying prevention would entail both an assessment of the extent of bullying and associated school climate conditions, so that school psychologists and other staff members could identify aspects of the school environment in need of attention.

The Olweus Bully/Victim Questionnaire is the best-known measure of bullying and has 40 questions concerned primarily with the frequency and type of bullying that students have experienced and how they responded to it, but relatively few questions concerned with school climate (Solberg & Olweus, 2003). …

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