Examining Pathways between Bully Victimization, Depression, & School Belonging Among Early Adolescents

Jordan P. Davis, Gabriel J. Merrin, Katherine M. Ingram, Dorothy L. Espelage, Alberto Valido, America J. El Sheikh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Objectives: The relationship between bully victimization and depression has been examined extensively with prior research showing long-term cascade of problems stemming from both exposure to victimization and depressive symptomology. However, prior research has failed to consider how protective factors may mitigate these long-term problems. Three theoretical models were tested: the interpersonal risk model, symptom driven model, and transactional model. Methods: The present study employs a novel statistical technique to explore longitudinal reciprocal associations among bullying, depression, and school belonging in a sample of 2177 middle school students (ages 11 to 15) in a Midwestern state. We used a model building process to explore the overall association between bully victimization, depression, and school belonging as well as a multi-group model in which models were estimated for boys and girls, separately. Results: In our overall model, results indicated support for both symptom driven and interpersonal risk models. However, we did not find any significant buffering effect of school belonging. In our multi-group model, we found support for a buffering effect of school belonging for girls, but not boys. School belonging buffered long term problems associated with experiences of bully victimization via reductions in depression. Conclusions: Our findings point to the broader concept of school structure being differentially supportive and protective for various demographic groups and the need to consider the entire social ecology of a school when planning and implementing prevention interventions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2365-2378
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Child and Family Studies
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Abuse
  • Internalizing symptoms
  • Longitudinal
  • Major Depressive Disorder
  • Victimization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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