236986 Theoretical approaches to bullying: Learning, attachment and connectedness

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Melissa Cristal Mercado-Crespo, MSc, MA , Department of Community & Family Health, University of South Florida, College of Public Health, Tampa, FL
Martha L. Coulter, DrPH MSW , Department of Community and Family Health, University of South Florida, College of Public Health, Tampa, FL
Bullying is considered a group process involving multiple actors (i.e., bullies, victims, bully-victims, bystanders), risk factors and contexts. Unfortunately, most bullying research is predominantly focused on school-based populations; research on bullying occurring at other group scenarios (e.g., family, community) is scarce.

Akers' Social Learning Theory can help in assessing the impact of diverse contexts in bullying – how differential associations provide the social context for the child to be exposed to differential reinforcements, definitions and models throughout his/her learning process. The type of parent-child attachment or the child's connectedness to others may also affect his/her participation in bullying and risk behaviors.

When designing prevention efforts within schools, family, church, neighborhood, and other group scenarios, it is important to consider the context and multiple dimensions of factors that affect a child's involvement in bullying. To this purpose, a theoretical integration model based on the socio-ecological perspective on bullying research and focused on the role of attachment, connectedness and differential associations is proposed. Specifically, this model considers four social contexts: a) family, b) church, c) school, and d) community.

Beyond theorizing, this integrated theoretical model presents an option on how to explore the roles of learning, attachment and connectedness within different social contexts affecting a child. A sample of bullying-related research questions that could be addressed following this model will be presented. Through it, researchers may have the opportunity to consider the impact of the level of attachment or connectedness between the child and others (i.e., differential associations) on bullying.

Learning Areas:
Advocacy for health and health education
Public health or related research
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Discuss the importance of socio-ecological approaches to explore the role of bullying risks in children, emphasizing the integrated, potential contribution of learning, attachment and connectedness in children’s bullying.

Keywords: Youth Violence, Theory

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: This research was conducted as part of my doctoral training for the PhD Public Health degree (currently in progress) at the University of South Florida. Additionally, I am trained as an epidemiologist (MSc) and communications specialist (MA), and possess professional experience in qualitative and quantitative research methods.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.