Abstract: Peer Bullying Victimization and Subsequent Delinquent Behaviors Among Children Living with Single Mothers (Society for Social Work and Research 24th Annual Conference - Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality)

651P Peer Bullying Victimization and Subsequent Delinquent Behaviors Among Children Living with Single Mothers

Sunday, January 19, 2020
Marquis BR Salon 6 (ML 2) (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
* noted as presenting author
Shawndaya Thrasher, MSW, MA, Research Assistant/PhD Student, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY
Sheila Barnhart, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY
J. Jay Miller, Asst. Prof, University of Kentucky, KY
IntroductionBullying, a public health problem, involves the intentional acts of aggression that are repeatedly exhibited by the bully onto the victim who lacks power. Bullying victimization is linked to undesirable outcomes including becoming a bully, and later adult offending, which furthers the cyclical pattern of aggression. Empirical studies conclude that children raised in single-parent homes have higher risks of social ills such as victimization, youth behavioral problems, and subsequent criminal behavior. It may be that socio-economic factors such as living in poverty increase levels of stress among single-parent households. Despite the growing research on parental risk factors relative to child bullying victimization and youth delinquency, their remains a dearth of literature examining this relationship using longitudinal data among youth who reside in stressful, single-mother homes. Given that 1 in 4 children live in unmarried households with a solo mother and these mothers face the highest risk of poverty, it is important to understand the relationships between bully victimization and later delinquency behavior among this population.

Methods:  We used data from the 5th and 6th wave of the longitudinal Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing study. An analytic sample of 1,589 focal children residing with single mothers living between 0-199% FPL was used to employ a structural equation model (SEM) examining the relationships between bully victimization at age 9 and delinquent behavior at age 15.  Peer bullying victimization was assessed by 4 self-report items gauging frequency of child bullying victimization in the last past month among school and/or neighborhood peers (e.g., “hit/tease you”). Delinquent behavior was assessed using 11-items asking about the frequency of violent and nonviolent behaviors in the past 12-months (e.g., “gotten into a serious physical fight, sold marijuana/other drugs.)  Univariate analyses were performed using SPSS v24 and SEM was performed using MPlus v 8.0.

Results: Both the measurement and structural models yielded acceptable fit (x288=193.963 [p<.001], RMSEA=0.028 [CI 0.023-0.033], CFI= 0.983, TLI=0.979, WRMR=1.099). Peer bullying victimization positively influenced delinquent behavior such that for everyone unit increase in peer bullying victimization, there was a 0.193 unit increase (p<0.001) in delinquent behavior.

Conclusion/Implications: Findings suggest child bullied victims living with single mothers who reside in or near poverty (i.e. 0-199% FPL) increases their susceptibility to subsequent adolescent offending behavior. It may be that children residing with mothers who experience financial stress and have less built-in support may negatively impact parent-child interactions.  It may also be possible that children living in such families have less resources available to address bullying victimization as well as any resulting traumatic experiences.  Thus, prevention and intervention strategies must target these families to further explore and address the casual relationship between child bullying victimization and subsequent adolescent offending behavior.  Social work practitioners, researchers and policy makers should also consider the additional resources these families may need (e.g. counseling services) given their economic limitations.