Parental Responses to Bullying: Understanding the Role of School Policies and Practices

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Abstract

Research, theory, and practice suggest an important role for parents in supporting their children when exposed to violence and helping them cope with victimization experiences. Despite this little is known about how parents respond to bullying and the factors that influence their response. Using data from 1,117 parents who reported that their middle or high schooler had been bullied in the past 30 days, this article identified different patterns of responses as well as examined the influence of perceptions of school climate, school policies and training, and school structural characteristics on their responses. A latent class analysis identified 3 different patterns of parental responses including Only Talk (72%), Contact School (23%), and Handle Themselves (5%). Parents who perceived the school to have more effective school rules were less likely to be in the class of parents who contacted the school versus the only talking class; however, school staff training was associated with a greater likelihood of parents being in the contact the school class versus the only talking class. Perceptions of equity were also related to an increased likelihood of being in the contact the school class versus the handle themselves class. These findings suggest that parents’ behaviors in response to bullying may be related to their perceptions of the school and school actions around bullying. Efforts to promote a collaborative approach to bullying between school and home should focus on communicating this expectation, potentially addressing parents’ perceptions of equitable treatment for all students.

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