Date of Award
Master of Arts
Cashel , Mary Louise
Bullying is a widespread issue that impacts both youth and their caregivers. Involvement in bullying, regardless of status as a perpetrator, victim, witness, or varying combinations of these roles, may result in significant psychological, social, and educational harm. Youth athletes are a special risk group and may have unique experiences with bullying due to potential hazing, the competitive nature of athletics, and performance or physical expectations that are incongruent with stereotypical gender norms. Prior research on bullying has largely emphasized the role of schools while overlooking parental roles, perceptions, and available resources. Parental resources on bullying exist in the form of websites, digital applications, books, and movies. Yet, little research has examined the frequency with which these resources are accessed by parents, how prepared they feel to address bullying, and how or how often they directly intervene. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the relations among parental perceptions of bullying, utilization of resources, perceptions of preparedness to address bullying, and predictors of parental involvement. A survey was disseminated to two samples of parent groups: 1) a local sample composed of parents of gymnasts, dancers, and cheerleaders; 2) a national parent sample recruited from Facebook groups. This study evaluated the moderating effects of parental preparedness and involvement on the functional impact of bullying on their children. The results of this study indicate that most parents have not accessed resources related to bullying. Despite this, parents who have a child who has been bullied were found to have accessed resources related to bullying significantly more frequently than parents of children who have not experienced bullying. Of the parents who did access resources, the most utilized resource was websites. Parental beliefs about bullying were assessed and a positive correlation was found between parents with high avoidance beliefs and whether their child had experienced bullying. The belief that children should assert themselves when being bullied was identified as the most prevalent parental belief, which is similar to prior research on the topic. Additionally, a relationship was observed between the frequency of traditional bullying experiences and parental ratings of perceptions of youth functional impairment. A major limitation of this study was the small sample size and the number of participants who discontinued before completing the survey. Overall, the findings of this study highlight the need greater inclusion of parents in anti-bullying interventions and campaigns to inform parents of available resources and alter potentially harmful attitudes about bullying. A public campaign would be beneficial for informing parents of the harms associated with bullying and the resources that are available to them. In addition, future research would benefit from focusing on future interventions that are targeted at parents.
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