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Title: Family environment as precursor of peer victimisation and prospective peer victimisation pathways to self-harm
Author: Lereya, Suzet
ISNI:       0000 0004 2748 7429
Awarding Body: University of Warwick
Current Institution: University of Warwick
Date of Award: 2012
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Peer victimisation has been identified as a serious problem worldwide with public health implications. Family environments characterised by harsh and hostile parenting, exposure to partner conflict and mental health problems have been identified as risk factors for being bullied. However, there remain uncertainties regarding other family environment factors and parenting behaviours that may increase the risk of being bullied or protect children from victimisation. So far it is still unknown whether vulnerabilities to being bullied may even have their origins before the child is born, in pregnancy. Furthermore, it is still uncertain whether being bullied increases the risk of self-harm or whether previous or concurrent mental health problems of the child or youth are responsible for both being bullied and self-harm. Investigation of these issues requires longitudinal studies which enable researchers to delineate the time ordering of antecedents, and allow for tentative causal inferences. This thesis explores the prenatal stress and family environment as precursors of peer victimisation, and whether and how peer victimisation increases the risk of self-harm in late adolescence. Three studies were conducted. In study 1, a meta-analysis of family environment factors (such as e.g. overprotective parenting and warm relationship with parents) and peer victimisation was carried out. This indicated that victims and, in particular, bully-victims come from families characterised by abuse and neglect, domestic violence, maladaptive parenting and overprotection. They also are more likely to have parents with mental health problems. Good communication with parents, warm and affectionate parents, parental involvement and support and parental supervision were identified as protective factors against peer victimisation. In study 2, using the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC), the effects of prenatal maternal stress on peer victimisation was investigated. Prenatal family stress (both prenatal family adversity and prenatal maternal mental health) increased the risk of peer victimisation at school even after controlling for postnatal family stress, partner conflict, maladaptive parenting and child temperament. Moreover, consistent with the meta-analysis, results showed that partner conflict and maladaptive parenting increased the risk of peer victimisation. In study 3, it was studied how peer victimisation increases the risk of self-harm in late adolescence using the ALSPAC sample. Being bullied at school increased the risk of self-harm both directly and indirectly via depression. Moreover, being bullied mediated the relationship between maladaptive family environment (exposure to maladaptive parenting and domestic violence) and self-harm. In conclusion, stressful experiences of the mother in pregnancy increase the vulnerability to be victimised by peers. These effects appear to affect the foetus directly or are mediated via negative family environment and parenting. Being bullied increases the risk of self-harm. Prevention and intervention strategies starting early in life may prevent peer victimisation and subsequent distress and self-harm. These should extend their focus beyond schools to include families. Health practitioners evaluating self-harm should be aware that being bullied is an important potential risk factor.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: BF Psychology