College Adjustment among Students Previously Involved in Bullying

Considerable research documents the long term effects of childhood bullying, yet little is known about the effects of early bullying on youth as they transition to college. Because of previous relational challenges, students with histories of bullying may be expected to adapt poorly to their new environment. Conversely, the transition to a new social context may allow students to build better and stronger connections with peers. To clarify how past bullying might affect college adjustment, Drs. Holt and Green have been studying the college adjustment experiences of youth previously involved in bullying by surveying incoming first year students at four US universities.  Data will be used to track key social, mental health, and academic outcomes over the first year of college, with the goal of guiding the development of programs on college campuses and promoting successful college transitions.  Results from the pilot study suggest that past bullying experiences are associated with poorer mental and physical health among first year college students.

Development of the California Bullying Victimization Scale (CBVS)

Accurate assessment of bullying is an essential component of prevention and intervention planning.  Most self-report bullying assessments are limited by either (1) using the term “bullying” which may lead students to rely on their own prior definitions of the word, and (2) not assessing all core components of the definition of bullying (chronicity, intentionality, and imbalance of power). In collaboration with colleagues at the University of California, Santa Barbara (Drs. Michael Furlong, Erika Felix, Jill Sharkey), Dr. Green has been working to develop a new self-report assessment of bullying victimization that addresses some of the limitations of current measures. The California Bullying Victimization Scale (CBVS) is designed to address limitations by using behaviorally-based self-report methods that incorporate all components of the bullying definition and does not use the term “bullying.” Studies of the CBVS have indicated strong test-retest reliability and predictive validity. The CBVS has been used in schools in California and Massachusetts to inform school safety planning.

Effects of a Middle School Social-Emotional Learning Program on Teen Dating Violence, Sexual Violence, and Substance Use in High School (DOJ funded grant, November 2013-October 2016)

Dr. Holt is collaborating with Dr. Dorothy Espelage (University of Illinois-Champaign) and Dr. Mark Van Ryzin (Oregon Social Learning Lab) on a 3-year study focused on the long-term effects of a social-emotional learning program on teen dating violence, sexual violence, and substance use.

Bullying and its Relation to Suicidal Ideation and Behaviors

In collaboration with researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Holt  conducted a meta-analysis on the association between bullying involvement and suicidal ideation/behaviors.  Cross-sectional studies have found that youth involved in bullying are at 1-10 times greater risk of reporting suicidal symptoms compared to uninvolved youth (Kim & Leventhal, 2008).  The primary goal of the meta-analysis was to extend existing research by providing specific effect sizes for the link between bullying victimization and suicidal ideation/behavior and the link between bullying perpetration and suicidal ideation/behavior.  Dr. Holt has also conducted empirical studies focused on traditional and cyber-bullying and suicidality.

The Association between Bullying Involvement and Sexual Risk-Taking among Adolescents

Although psychological and educational correlates of bullying have been explored extensively, little information is available about the link between bullying involvement and sexual risk taking behaviors among adolescents. Further, the extent to which bullying, in conjunction with other victimization forms, relates to sexual risk taking remains unexamined.  In collaboration with Dr. Jennifer Matjasko (CDC), Dr. Dorothy Espelage (UIUC), Brian Koenig (K-12 associates), and Gerald Reid (BU graduate student), Dr. Holt analyzed data from 8,687 adolescents to evaluate associations among bullying, other victimization forms, and sexual risk taking behaviors with consideration to whether these associations differ by sex and by sexual orientation. Findings were published in Pediatrics, and indicated that bullying involvement, particularly as a bully or bully-victim, is associated with a higher likelihood of engaging in casual sex and sex under the influence.  These findings held even after controlling for victimization experiences in other domains (e.g., child maltreatment), though relations were primarily true for heterosexual youth.

Assessing Mental Health Needs and Service Use in Junior High and High Schools

Recent estimates indicate that less than one-third of US adolescents with emotional and behavioral disorders receive any mental health services. Existing school-wide assessment batteries provide some information on mental health need, but tend to not be comprehensive (e.g., they often emphasize behavioral disorders to the exclusion of the emotional disorders which increase in prevalence among adolescents) and fail to provide specific information about mental health service use and access barriers that are necessary to translate findings into planning and service delivery. Dr. Green is beginning a new project with the goal of developing an integrative assessment of mental health need and use of mental health support services that is specifically designed to improve service planning by school-based personnel. This assessment will be brief (less than 20-minutes) and combine information from multiple informants (students, teachers, parents, school mental health providers) to identify consistencies and gaps in perceptions of mental health services. Results will be provided to schools in the form of a brief profile report, specifically designed to inform mental health service planning.

Multiple Victimization of Youth

One of Dr. Holt’s primary lines of research focuses on understanding the overlap between victimization forms (e.g., between bullying and child maltreatment), and she has conducted a number of studies on this topic.  Research in this area is particularly needed to identify potential connections between bullying and other victimization domains to inform appropriate intervention and prevention efforts.  Further, understanding the range of victimization exposures youth face will allow for a more complete picture of factors affecting psychological and academic functioning.  Dr. Holt has evaluated the overlap between school-based bullying involvement and: child maltreatment, community violence, sexual harassment, sexual violence, domestic violence exposure, cyber-bullying, and dating violence.  In turn, she has considered how these factors independently and cumulatively influence youth functioning across multiple domains.