Term of Award

Fall 2011

Degree Name

Master of Science in Experimental Psychology (M.S.)

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (open access)

Department

Department of Psychology

Committee Chair

Janice H. Kennedy

Committee Member 1

Amy A. Hackney

Committee Member 2

C. Thresa Yancey

Abstract

Peer victimization has become highly prevalent in Western schools with some studies showing that as many as 50% of high school students report having victimized or been victimized (Gaul, 2010). Past research has shown that several parental factors, such as involvement (ConnersBurrow et al., 2009) and support (Hill et al., 2004) have been linked to many childhood outcomes, such as the presence of aggressive behaviors. Parental involvement has also been linked to the likelihood of becoming a victim of school bullying (Jeynes, 2008). Although some researchers have found correlations between maternal attachment and externalizing behaviors in females and between paternal attachment and externalizing behaviors (e.g., getting into fights) in males (Fagot et al., 1990), researchers have not looked specifically at the relationships between levels of attachment anxiety and avoidance and the likelihood of becoming a school bully or victim. The present study examined these relationships, taking into account specific types of aggressive behavior (physical and relational). Results showed that female participants were more likely to be physically aggressive when they had higher levels of attachment avoidance to their mothers and higher levels of attachment anxiety with their fathers. In addition, female participants were more likely to engage in relational aggression when they experienced higher levels of attachment anxiety to their mothers, while male participants were more likely to engage in this form of aggression when they experienced higher levels of attachment anxiety to their fathers. Also, when examining peer victimization, participants reporting higher levels of anxiety about their maternal relationships were more likely to report being a victim of peer aggression in childhood. When taking into account gender of the participants, this relationship was only found in female participants. Implications for these findings are discussed.

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