Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Community and Family Health

Major Professor

Martha L. Coulter

Co-Major Professor

Carol Bryant


children, Hispanic or Latino, religiosity, social learning, violence, youth


Relationships or connections with caring pro-social others (e.g., parents, teachers, school, friends, neighborhood, religion) serve as pro-resilience assets that may enhance children's abilities to cope with bullying. The purpose of this research study was to explore the roles of connectedness and religiosity as potential factors that could enhance resiliency against bullying among preadolescents in Puerto Rico (PR). This doctoral dissertation also addressed several gaps in the children's bullying, resilience and religiosity research literature.

A sample of 426 community-based afterschool program preadolescents (ages 10-12 years old) participated in this exploratory, cross-sectional study, by completing a quantitative questionnaire in paper and pencil format. Data was analyzed overall, by location (i.e., San Juan Metropolitan Area (SJ Metro), Other Municipalities within PR), gender, age, and church attendance.

Twenty percent of all participants were victimized by bullying at least 2-3 times per month. On the other hand, 5% of participants said they had been a bully 2-3 times per month. The most frequent type of bullying perpetration and victimization reported was verbal. Participants reported the highest levels of connectedness to school and the community, followed by connectedness to parents, teachers, mothers, religion, fathers, and friends. Most participants (71%) said they attended church regularly, but only 35% did so every week. Statistically significant differences were found by location, gender, age and church attendance.

Connectedness and religiosity were correlated significantly to the participants' involvement in bullying at different roles. Surprisingly, having strong prosocial connections do not appear to have a reduction impact on participants' bullying victimization. Connectedness overall, to mothers, teachers and school was positively and significantly correlated to victimization, whereas connectedness to school was negatively correlated to perpetration. Bully-victimization was negatively correlated to connectedness overall, to parents, mothers, friends, teachers, and school. Multiple linear regression analyses found that higher levels in connectedness to mother and connectedness to the community accounted for a 60% decrease and a 45% increase, respectively, in bullying perpetration among non-church attending participants.

In terms of religiosity, analyses distinguished between participants' engagement in private and public religiosity practices. Private religiosity was negatively correlated to being a bullying perpetrator, and positively correlated to being a bystander. Public religiosity was positively correlated to bullying victimization.

The self-report of religiosity did not affect the odds of being a perpetrator, victim or bully-victim. Specifically among SJ Metro participants, the self-report of private religiosity or the combination of both private and public religiosity reduced the odds of being a bystander. Multiple linear regression analyses found that among non-church attending participants, a 1-unit change in public religiosity acccounted for a 62% increase in bullying perpetration. While the religiosity-related findings from this study's correlation analyses were consistent with the literature, regression analyses' findings were unexpected and warrant additional research.

This study goes beyond solely school-based approaches to bullying research and prevention, by utilizing a non-school sample of low-income preadolescents who attend afterschool programs at local community-based organizations. Furthermore, its focus on a younger age group (i.e., preadolescents) is consistent with the resiliency literature and the need to enhance resilience factors earlier in childhood. Findings also consider the multiplicity of actors involved in bullying (i.e., perpetrators, victims, bully/victims, or bystanders), and distinguishes between direct and indirect types of bullying. Consistent with recommendations from previous research, a socio-ecological approach was followed to explore the role of connectedness to others at the individual, family, school, peer, religious and community levels, as well as the role of religiosity as an external asset to enhance resilience in preadolescents.

This exploratory study contributes to our understanding of bullying among PR preadolescents, and serve to inform the development of prevention programs, strategies and policies at the school and community level. Research on bullying in PR is limited, making it increasingly challenging for PR schools, community- and faith-based organizations to collaborate in multilevel interventions that specifically address the needs of PR's children.