Summary results of a paper in progress:
Flinders University Adelaide Australia
National Institute for Educational Policy Research (NIER), Tokyo Japan
Four path models were developed to examine relationships between stressors, support and wellbeing, and the effects of these variables on students' adaptation to school, victimization and bullying. The models focussed on primary school boys; high school boys; primary school girls; and, high school girls. The same variables were tested using the Japanese and the Australian data.
Boys and Bullying
In both primary and high school models there was a strong association between Victimization and Bullying. This relationship indicates that among boys across the middle school (junior high) years, those who have been bullied have also, in turn, bullied others. There was no relationship found between boys' Adaptation to School and either Victimization or Bullying.
Other Common Relationships
There was a strong relationship between Stressors and Wellbeing. This shows that there are clear negative effects on boys' health and psychological wellbeing resulting from the pressures they perceive as coming from family, peers, teachers and schoolwork. Also, the relationship found between Support and Wellbeing shows that lack of support has a detrimental effects on boys' wellbeing. Support also affects Adaptation to School. Lack of support seems to be a critical factor in boys' adaptation to school. So too did low levels of wellbeing predict poor adaptation to School. Importantly, Stressors strongly predicted Victimization in the models.
Differences Between Primary and High School Boys
Whereas in the high school model Stressors predicted both Victimization and Bullying, in the primary model Stressors did not predict Bullying directly although there was an indirect effect. The other notable difference between the models was that Stressors predicted poor Adaptation to School for primary boys while there was no similar association for boys in high school. Poor Wellbeing predicted both Victimization and Bullying in primary boys but not for high school boys.
Overall, the effects for boys of the relationships between Stressors and Support were similar. The key difference was found to be in the relationship between the effect of Wellbeing on Victimization and Bullying.
Common Model Relationships
Stressors predicted Wellbeing. Similarly, in both models Stressors was linked to Victimization. In the primary model Stressors had a direct effect on Bullying whereas the effect was indirect in the high school model. Lack of support predicted poor Adaptation to School for primary and high school girls. A further common finding was that poor Wellbeing was related to poor Adaptation to School.
In neither model was Wellbeing related to either Victimization or Bullying. Other notable results were that Victimization predicted Bullying while Adaptation to School did not. This finding was consistent with the boys' results.
Differences Between Primary and High School Girls
The main differences between the primary and high school models were that, in the high school model, poor Support predicted poor Wellbeing and poor Adaptation to School predicted Victimization. These relationships were not evident in the primary school model. It seems that Support was an important influence on high school girls' sense of wellbeing and that poor adaptation to school put these girls at risk for victimization.
For Australian girls in primary and high schools, the impact of Stressors was felt widely in terms of their effect on Bullying, Victimization, Adaptation to School, and Wellbeing. There was a clear relationship between pressures from family, peers, and teachers (Stressors), and students' perceptions that these groups did not provide them with Support.
Lack of support, in turn, had the effect of students expressing less positive feelings about school (Adaptation to School). A poorer sense of Wellbeing also had an effect on students' less positive feelings about school. While negative feelings about school bore a relationship to girls' bullying behaviour across year levels it was associated with Victimization for primary, but not, high school girls.
A similar pattern of results was found for Australian boys as for the girls with Stressors emerging as a factor that influenced every other variable in both models. Also consistent with the girls, Australian boys' Adaptation to School was affected by Support and Wellbeing, and Victimization predicted Bullying.
In relation to Bullying, Wellbeing was not found to influence Bullying for either primary or high school boys whereas it was a factor for Victimization for both groups of students. Adaptation to School did not have an effect on Victimization. However, this variable did have an impact on primary school (but not high school), boys' Bullying.
Similarities and Differences Across Cultures
With regard to Bullying, results showed that being victimized and being a bully were related; there appears to be a clear, predictive relationship between having been bullied at school and engaging in bullying behaviour.
Stressful relationships (Stressors) were found to predict Victimization for all students. The strength of this path, across countries, year levels, for girls and for boys, suggests that there is a commonality of perceptions held by students, that pressures from family, teachers, and peers, are aligned to their feelings of being victimized. Perhaps these stressors in themselves may be interpreted as forms of victimization? The same pattern of relationship between Stressors and Victimization was found for Stressors and Bullying in Japan across sex and year level, but in Australia the relationship was evident only for high school boys and primary school girls.
Lack of Support was associated with Bullying only for Japanese primary boys. No relationship between Adaptation to School and Bullying was found in Australia but in Japan this was important for all groups except high school boys.
While Support was not an important factor related to Bullying, it was universal in its effect on Adaptation School. Positive feelings about school were clearly related to the support students felt they received from their family, teachers, and peers.
Acknowledgment: This research is supported by an Australian Research Council International Linkage Grant.