Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Public Health

Major Professor

Karen D. Liller, Ph.D.


Bully, Victim, Bronfenbrenner's ecological theory, Systems theory, Multilevel


Bullying has been identified as a problem that can affect the physical and psychosocial health of both the aggressors and victims. Given the consequences for those who bully, for victims, and for the school environment, early intervention is important to minimize these risks. School staff need additional data to understand the scope of bullying and to adopt effective strategies. This study seeks to meet this need by analyzing the association of bullying behaviors and school climate perceptions of middle school students within the context of school membership. This study used Bronfenbrenner's ecological system theory. Within this framework, a bullying interaction occurs not only because of individual characteristics of the child who is bullying, but also because of actions of peers, teachers and staff; physical characteristics of the school environment; and most importantly, of student perceptions of these contextual factors.

This study used survey data to analyze the effect of student perceptions of school climate on self-reported bullying behaviors of students in six Sarasota County middle schools. Data sources include student- and school level data. The researcher gathered student level data from a modified middle school YRBS survey the Sarasota School District administered to middle school students, in December 2003. The school level data were gathered from the Florida Department of Education Web site. The data were analyzed using multiple regression analyses and within multilevel models. The results indicated that bullying was a common occurrence in the schools. Approximately eight percent of students were bullied on a regular basis in school, with verbal bullying as the most common type of bullying and relational bullying as the least common. Bullying aggression for physical, verbal, and relational bullying was most common for boys.

Girls reported higher levels of being victims of relational bullying. Bullying also varied according to school membership and grade membership. Bullying differed according to school climate perceptions, as well. Interestingly, the effect of some of these variables on bullying was modified by sex. Finally, school context was a significant predictor of bullying, in particular the percentage of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch.