Background: Bullied children are at risk for later emotional and behavioural problems. 'Resilient' children function better than would be expected given their experience of bullying victimisation. This study examined the role of families in promoting resilience following bullying victimisation in primary school.
Method: Data were from the Environmental Risk (E-Risk) Study which describes a nationally representative sample of 1,116 twin pairs and their families. We used mothers' and children's reports to examine bullying victimisation during primary school and mothers' and teachers' reports to measure children's emotional and behavioural adjustment at ages 10 and 12. We used mothers' and interviewers' reports to derive measures of protective factors in the home including maternal warmth, sibling warmth and positive atmosphere at home.
Results: Results from linear regression models showed that family factors were associated with children's resilience to bullying victimisation. Maternal warmth, sibling warmth and a positive atmosphere at home were particularly important in bullied children compared to non-bullied children in promoting emotional and behavioural adjustment. We used a twin differences design to separate out environmental protective factors in twins who are genetically identical. Differences in maternal warmth between twins from genetically identical monozygotic pairs concordant for bullying victimisation were correlated with twin differences in behavioural problems (r = -.23) such that the twin who received the most warmth had fewer behavioural problems. This shows that maternal warmth has an environmental effect in protecting children from the negative outcomes associated with being bullied.
Conclusions: Warm family relationships and positive home environments help to buffer children from the negative outcomes associated with bullying victimisation. Warm parent-child relationships can exert an environmentally mediated effect on children's behavioural adjustment following bullying victimisation. Identifying protective factors that promote resilience to bullying victimisation could lead to improved intervention strategies targeting the home environment.