Bullying in Adolescence and Psychosocial Maladjustment: The Mediating Role of Social Self-Concept and the Buffering Effect of Parental Communication

Open Access
Ledwell, Margaret J.
Graduate Program:
Master of Arts
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
Committee Members:
  • Valarie Elizabeth King, Thesis Advisor
  • bullying
  • adolescence
  • parent-child relationship
  • communication
  • gender
The past few years have seen an increase in research and media attention regarding the impact of experiencing bullying on adolescent adjustment & wellbeing. However, few studies have explored either potential mediating mechanisms linking bullying with poor psychosocial adjustment or potential moderators of this association. The current study uses a structural equation modeling technique to examine social self-concept as a mediating mechanism as well as the potentially buffering role of high levels of parental communication on the association between experiencing bullying and psychosocial maladjustment using a nationally representative sample of US students in grades 6 through 10 (N = 14,039), the Health Behavior in School-Aged Children Survey 2001/2002 (HBSC). Findings indicate that experiencing bullying contributes to adolescents’ psychosocial maladjustment, in part through the negative influence of bullying on adolescents’ social self-concept, which additionally contributes to poorer adjustment. Gender differences exist in this association; overall bullying is more consequential for adolescent females’ adjustment. Parental communication acts as a buffer against the negative effects of bullying on psychosocial adjustment by moderating the impact that bullying has on adolescent social self-concept. Findings from this study suggest that further research is warranted on how bullying might differentially affect the adjustment and psychological well-being of adolescent males and females, as well as what aspects of the parent-child relationship may be protective for bullied adolescents.