Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award

January 2020

Degree Type


Degree Name



Social Work

First Advisor

Jun Sung Hong


Adolescent bullying is a serious concern for adolescents, parents, teachers, school officials, and the public. While many studies have explored serious forms of violence (e.g., gang violence and homicide) among urban adolescents, relatively few studies have examined “less serious forms of violence,” such as bullying among these adolescents. This dissertation research, which is divided into three studies, aims to examine antecedents of bullying and peer victimization as well as psychosocial outcomes of peer victimization from a sample of 639 urban African American adolescents in Chicago’s Southside. The first study applies Bronfenbrenner’s ecological systems perspective and explores factors that are correlated with bullying perpetration and victimization. The study findings emphasize the importance of school-based intervention, especially teacher support, which appears to be the most significant protective factor for the study sample. In terms of the psychosocial outcomes associated with bullying and victimization, the second study examined the association between peer victimization and suicidal thoughts and behaviors. Although bullying and suicide are major public health problems, studies have not fully explored the relationship between peer victimization and suicidal behavior, particularly among urban African American youth. Applying Joiner’s (2005) Interpersonal-Psychological Theory of Suicide, the second study employed a path model using the Structural Equation Model (SEM) to examine the pathways from peer victimization to suicidal thoughts through internalizing behaviors (low self-esteem, depression, and hopelessness. Victims of bullying were found to develop low self-esteem and depression, and depression can contribute to feelings of hopelessness, thereby increasing suicidal risks. Urban African American adolescents who reside in disorganized neighborhoods are at a heightened risk of exposure to deviant peers, which can increase their odds of bullying. A high percentage of African American children and adolescents in poor inner-cities are likely to be exposed to community violence, which can increase their risk of aggressive behaviors, such as bullying. However, only a limited number of studies have examined how youths’ exposure to community violence is related to bullying behaviors. Applying Jessor et al.’s (1968) Problem-Behavior Theory, the third study proposes and examines the pathways from community violence exposure to bullying perpetration through behavioral problems (i.e., antisocial behaviors, exposure to peer delinquency, and drug use). African American adolescents who were exposed to community violence were found to display antisocial behaviors and exposure to peer delinquency. Further, antisocial behaviors can elevate bullying behaviors.

Overall, findings from these have major implications for social work practice and future research.

Included in

Social Work Commons