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Family adversity has been associated with children’s bullying behaviors. The evidence is, however, dominated by mothers’ perceptions of the family environment and a focus on mothers’ behaviors. This prospective population-based study examined whether children’s bullying behaviors were associated with mother- and father-reported family adversity, assessed before and after child birth. Peer-nominations were used to assess bullying behaviors of 1298 children in elementary school (mean age 7.5 years). The following paternal risk factors were prospectively associated with children’s bullying behaviors: (1) father-reported prenatal family distress, (2) fathers’ hostility at preschool age, and (3) fathers’ harsh disciplinary practices at preschool age, but effect sizes were relatively small. The effect of maternal risk factors was less consistent, only mother-reported family distress in childhood was associated with children’s bullying behaviors. The associations were independent of background family risk factors (i.e., life stress, contextual factors, and other background factors such as parental education and risk taking record) and early childhood externalizing problems. Moreover, our results indicated that father-reported family adversity predicted children’s bullying behaviors over and above the background family risk factors, early childhood externalizing problems and mother-reported family adversity. We also demonstrated that the association of fathers’ prenatal hostility and family distress with subsequent bullying behavior of their child at school was partly mediated by fathers’ harsh disciplinary practices at preschool age. Our findings highlight the importance of fathers’ behaviors in the development of children’s bullying behaviors.
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- Like Father, like Child: Early Life Family Adversity and Children’s Bullying Behaviors in Elementary School
Else E. de Vries
Vincent W. V. Jaddoe
Frank C. Verhulst
- Springer US