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With a little help from my teacher: The role of teacher-student interactions in peer victimization at school

Boek - Dissertatie

Bullying and peer victimization are persistent problems in schools. Victimized students are at risk of experiencing many negative consequences in the short and long run. Although teachers are considered important interaction partners at school and key adults in the prevention and reduction of peer victimization, their role in victimization processes has only recently been investigated. The main goal of this dissertation was to examine the role of teacher-student interactions in peer victimization. Specifically, affective teacher-student relationships and teachers' responses towards bullying incidents may be crucial to tackle peer victimization and stimulate positive peer relationships. Accordingly, the first aim of this dissertation was to clarify the role of affective teacher-student relationships in peer victimization. This aim was addressed by performing a multilevel meta-analysis (N = 185,881) investigating the link between teacher-student relationships on the one hand, and bullying perpetration and peer victimization on the other (Study 1). Results showed that higher-quality teacher-student relationships were related to lower levels of bullying perpetration and peer victimization. In a subsample of longitudinal associations, higher-quality teacher-student relationships were also related to less subsequent peer victimization. Several variables (e.g., indicator of the teacher-student relationship) affected the strength of the overall associations. Moreover, data from a three-wave longitudinal study among 930 Flemish students (grades 4-6) were used to investigate transactional links between two dimensions of the dyadic teacher-student relationship (i.e., closeness and conflict) and peer victimization (Study 2). Results showed that closeness and conflict were uniquely associated with self-reported peer victimization within time, and change in variables was correlated at most time points. Furthermore, more closeness consistently predicted less conflict across the school year, and vice versa. Yet, no evidence was found for cross-lagged associations between teacher-student relationships and peer victimization. The second aim was to investigate the importance of teachers' responses towards bullying for peer victimization processes. To this end, longitudinal data from 874 victimized Dutch students (grades 4-6) and their teachers were used to examine the prevalence of victimized students' disclosure to the teacher, and the extent to which teachers' responses towards bullying (i.e., active vs. passive) can promote victimized students' disclosure (Study 3). Results demonstrated that three in four victimized students told someone and 58.3% of the disclosers told the teacher about their victimization. However, teacher responses towards bullying did not predict victimized students' likelihood to disclose to the teacher at a later time point. Taken together, the findings of this dissertation add to existing support for the link between teacher-student interactions and peer victimization. Directions for future research are discussed, such as differentiating between subtypes of bullying. Hopefully, this dissertation can inspire educational practice in prevention and intervention efforts against peer victimization, and ultimately help children to have a bright future ahead of them.
Jaar van publicatie:2021