Background and Purpose: School bullying has been one of the most pronounced stressors throughout childhood and adolescence, which would exhibit short- and long-term negative impacts on mental health. It has been suggested that social support plays an essential role in coping with school bullying, not only buffering its negative effects on health, but also facilitating one’s ability to master challenges. Additionally, the enabling hypothesis suggests that received social support could prompt self-efficacy. Since both social support and self-efficacy have been highlighted in enhancing mental health, it is crucial to find out if they are chained in a specific way for bullied students. The present study aimed to examine the direct and indirect effects of actually received social support after being bullied and bullied victims’ loneliness via self-efficacy. Furthermore, the moderating role of school stage would be explored on the relationships in the mediation model.
Methods: A cross-sectional survey was conducted in north China with 2927 students from Grade 4, 5, 7 and 8 by probability proportional to size sampling method. A sample of 2452 students who reported being bullied at least once in the past six months (48.3% female) was included in the current study, whose mean age was 13.22 years (SD=1.59, range 10-17). The following measures were employed: 1) School Bullying Victim Scale; 2) Actually Received Support Scale from the Berlin Social Support Scales, including family, peer and teacher domains; 3) General Self-efficacy Scale; 4) Children’s Loneliness Scale; and 5) confounding variables (grade and gender). Correlation analysis, multiple linear regression, mediation and moderation analyses were conducted.
Results: Mediation and moderation analyses showed that for both primary and middle school students, received family, friend and teacher support significantly correlated with students’ loneliness and self-efficacy partially mediated these associations (for family support, b=-0.08,95% CI[-0.10,-0.06]; for friend support, b=-0.02,95% CI[-0.03,-0.01]; for teacher support, b=-0.03,95% CI[-0.05,-0.02]). Besides, school stage moderated the associations between actually received support and loneliness as well as the association between self-efficacy and loneliness.
Conclusions and Implications: Results revealed the potential relationships among received social support, self-efficacy and loneliness in Chinese adolescents affected by school bullying. The findings highlighted the need for interventions that may help increase social support provision and enhance self-efficacy for bullied students. A more structured social support should be designed according to students’ school stage and their available resources to optimize its benefits.