Trust and Bullying: A Study of Social Processes in Elementary Schools




Kelley, Misti Michelle

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Faculty trust and student bullying are two salient properties known to affect school environments. Indeed, the presence of organizational trust bolsters student achievement and promotes school safety, thus making schools more effective, although bullying behaviors abate the effectiveness of schools. Therefore, understanding potential relationships between organizational trust and student bullying may enable both researchers and educators to recognize social processes in schools, and how they may impact effective educational processes. However, because organizational trust and student bullying are typically viewed as separate constructs, the main focus of this study is to investigate the possible relationships between three dimensions of faculty trust and two facets of student bullying in elementary schools. The general hypothesis of this research is that school trust is negatively related to school bullying and positively related to teacher protection of students. Because both school trust and student bullying are viewed from multi-dimensional perspectives, the central research question is: "What dimensions of organizational trust are the best predictors of each dimension of student bullying in Texas elementary schools? "The sample for this study included 109 elementary schools in south central Texas. While the data were collected from 5,707 certified teachers, data was aggregated to the organizational level. Thus, the analysis targeted the campus and not individual teachers. A factor analysis was completed on both instruments. Descriptive statistics were summarized for all variables and two control variables: socioeconomic status and school size. Correlation coefficients were computed for the controls, each aspect of faculty trust, and for both dimensions of student bullying. To gain a more refined understanding of the relationships, multiple regression analysis was conducted using the controls and all aspects of each study variable. Both instruments in this study were found to have favorable factor structures that are both consistent with their respective theoretical underpinnings and appropriate for use in elementary schools. The general hypothesis that school trust is negatively related to school bullying and positively related to teacher protection of students in elementary schools was supported, yet a closer look at the relationships indicated that some aspects of faculty trust emerged as statistically significant and independent predictors of student bullying and teacher protection while others did not. As such, this research represents an ongoing project to establish baselines from which archived data may be utilized to compare data to a contemporary sample of schools. It is hoped that this beginning builds on existing knowledge and provides both educators and researchers with necessary knowledge to improve trust, minimize bullying, and cultivate productive learning in elementary schools.


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elementary schools, school size, socioeconomic status, student bullying, teacher protection, trust



Educational Leadership and Policy Studies