Academic journal article Merrill-Palmer Quarterly

The Joint Effect of Peer Victimization and Conflict with Teachers on Student Engagement at the End of Elementary School

Academic journal article Merrill-Palmer Quarterly

The Joint Effect of Peer Victimization and Conflict with Teachers on Student Engagement at the End of Elementary School

Article excerpt

Negative socialization experiences with peers and teachers during early grades have been linked with many adjustment problems in school. Children who report frequent conflict with teachers and severe peer harassment are more likely to present academic and psychosocial difficulties, such as aggressive behaviors, depression, loneliness, anxiety, and low self-esteem (Boivin, Hymel, & Bukowski, 1995; Hodges, Boivin, Vitaro, & Bukowski, 1999; Ladd & Burgess, 2001; Nakamoto & Schwartz, 2010; Schwartz, Gorman, Nakamoto, & Toblin, 2005; Troop-Gordon & Ladd, 2005). These students are also more likely to display important behavior problems in the classroom, which could undermine their engagement and motivation in school (Birch & Ladd, 1998). Nevertheless, beyond the contribution of students' academic and psychosocial difficulties, the harmful consequences of experiencing contentious relationships with teachers and peers on student engagement in school are well recognized; numerous studies have shown that students who either are victims of peer harassment (Buhs, Ladd, & Herald, 2006; Iyer, Kochenderfer-Ladd, Eisenberg, & Thompson, 2010; O'Neil, Welsh, Parke, Wang, & Strand, 1997) or report frequent conflicts with teachers (Birch & Ladd, 1997; Dotterer & Lowe, 2011; McMahon, Wernsman, & Rose, 2009) are less likely to display selfregulated behaviors, participate in class, and feel enthusiastic about and bonded with their school. Until recently, most studies looked at only the independent and unique contributions of these negative social relationships; they did not consider how these factors might interact to accentuate student disengagement. Considering that student engagement is central to charting the developmental course of academic achievement, perseverance, and success (Ladd & Dinella, 2009; Skinner, Kindermann, & Furrer, 2009) and that the last years of elementary school represent a critical period for students' adjustment and success in middle school (Duchesne, Ratelle, & Roy, 2012; Eccles et al., 1993), research examining the harmful consequences of such detrimental relationships at the end of elementary school is warranted.

Student Engagement

Efforts have been made to propose an integrative conceptualization of engagement. For instance, Fredricks, Blumenfeld, and Paris (2004) suggested that school engagement is a multidimensional construct that includes behavioral, affective, and cognitive dimensions. The behavioral dimension refers to student conduct when approaching school-related tasks (McDermott, Mordell, & Stoltzfus, 2001). More specifically, it concerns students' level of attention, effort, and participation in classroom-related activities and the degree to which they conform to classroom and school rules (Finn, 1993; Fredricks et al., 2004). The affective dimension refers to student attitudes and interest regarding classroom-related activities, as well as their feeling of belongingness to their school (Goodenow, 1993; Watt, 2004). As such, school belonging can be more specifically defined in terms of students' perceptions of acceptance, respect, and inclusion in the school environment (McMahon et al., 2009); these perceptions, in turn, make students feel secure and valued (Bergin & Bergin, 2009). Finally, conceptualization of the cognitive dimension rests on students' psychological involvement in learning and use of self-regulation strategies (Ablard & Lipschultz, 1998; J. P. Connell & Wellborn, 1991; Pintrich & de Groot, 1990; Skinner & Belmont, 1993). As reported previously (Archambault, Janosz, Fallu, & Pagani, 2009), like all facets of engagement, the cognitive dimension makes an important contribution to children's life-course trajectory of academic achievement in secondary school. However, in elementary school, many students are cognitively immature, which limits their abilities to use self-regulation strategies and to plan and monitor their learning (Vuontela et al. …

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