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Seek Help from Teachers or Fight Back? Student Perceptions of Teachers’ Actions during Conflicts and Responses to Peer Victimization

  • Author(s): Aceves, Mario J.
  • Hinshaw, Stephen P.
  • Mendoza-Denton, Rodolfo
  • Page-Gould, Elizabeth
  • et al.
Abstract

Previous research has shown that teachers’ actions when addressing conflict on school grounds can shape adolescent perceptions regarding how well the school manages victimization. Our objective in this study was to determine how these perceptions influenced the likelihood that adolescent students would react to victimization scenarios by either seeking help from school authority or physically fighting back. Vignettes describing two events of victimization were administered to 148 ethnic minority adolescents (Latino, African American, and Asian backgrounds; 49% female) attending an urban high school with high rates of conflict. Positive perceptions of teachers’ actions during conflicts—assessed via a questionnaire tapping how teachers manage student conflicts both generally and in a specific instance of strife—predicted a greater willingness to seek help from school authority, which in turn negatively predicted self-reported aggressive responses to the victimization scenarios. Path analysis established the viability of this indirect effect model, even when we controlled for sex, beliefs about the acceptability of aggression, and previous levels of reactive aggression. Adolescents’ perceptions of teachers’ actions during conflicts are discussed in relation to social information processing models, improving student–teacher relations, and decreasing aggression at schools.

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