Abstract: Parenting Practices, Conduct Problems, and Bullying Perpetration Among Ukrainian Children (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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Parenting Practices, Conduct Problems, and Bullying Perpetration Among Ukrainian Children

Thursday, January 12, 2023
Valley of the Sun E, 2nd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Viktor Burlaka, PhD, LMSW, Associate Professor, Wayne State University
Jun Sung Hong, PhD, Associate Professor, Wayne State University, MI
Oleksii Serdiuk, PhD, Associate Professor, Kharkiv National University of Internal Affairs, Kharkiv, Ukraine
Shani Saxon, LMSW, PhD Student, Wayne State University
Will Jones, PhD Candidate, Doctoral Student, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI
Background and Purpose: The rates of mental illness in Ukraine have been among the highest in Europe. Since 2014, Russia has annexed Crimea, supported pro-Russian separatists in Donetsk and Luhansk regions and has invaded Ukraine causing destruction, human suffering, and likely further increase in externalizing behaviors, such as conduct problems and aggressive behavior among children and adolescents.This study examined the association of parenting behaviors with child conduct problems and bullying perpetration using the child data collected before the Russian invasion of Ukraine. We hypothesized that a) positive parenting practices would be associated with lower children's conduct problems and b) children with fewer conduct problems will be less likely to bully their peers.

Methods: The study utilized a community-based sample of 2,763 children aged 10-18 (M = 12.6), of which 69% were girls. Children reported their age and sex. Child reports of conduct problems were assessed using the Youth Self-Report. The Alabama Parenting Questionnaire was used to examine parenting practices. The Illinois Bully Scale was used to evaluate child bullying perpetration. Structural Equation Modeling was used to conduct the analyses.

Results: Results indicated that 19.9% of girls and 22.7% of boys reported upsetting another student for enjoyment, 19.7% of girls and 28.8% of boys teased, with 9.9% of girls and 18.2% of boys having had encouraged peers to fight. Additionally, 23.8% of girls and 33.7% of boys reported sometimes breaking the rules at home, school, or elsewhere. Ukrainian children were more likely to experience conduct problems if they identified as male and their parents used corporal punishment, inconsistent discipline, and poor monitoring. Bullying perpetration was associated with more conduct problems and lower parental involvement. The model provided an acceptable fit for the data.

Conclusions and Implications: This study continues to fill a gap in knowledge regarding child mental health in Ukraine. The results suggest that a child's risk for bullying is associated with child characteristics such as male sex and parental factors such as lower involvement and the use of negative parenting practices. This is the only known large-scale study of parenting and child behavioral problems among Ukrainian children before the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022. The present study is significant because it provides a benchmark to measure future shifts in Ukrainian childhood conduct problems and bullying involvement due to witnessing and experiencing war-related traumas. These results also have implications for policymakers, social work researchers, practitioners, and students since they underscore how consequential children’s psychosocial environments are when addressing their mental health needs. The findings may also improve learners' abilities to utilize global perspectives in their education and training in clinical social work and increase understanding of factors at multiple system levels that may contribute to child wellbeing and mental health in lower-income countries, such as Ukraine.