Leadership Studies Ed.D. Dissertations


The Relationship Between Student Bullying Behaviors and Self-Esteem

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)


Leadership Studies

First Advisor

Patrick Pauken


This dissertation explored the relationship between student bullying behaviors and the self-esteem of intermediate elementary school students in grades 3-5. While bullying behaviors of students have existed for centuries, research on the topic of bullying has only begun in the past couple of decades and more recently since the turn of the century due to increased school shootings and school-related incidents of violence. Very few studies have specifically examined the effects of bullying upon student self-esteem. At a small rural elementary school in Northwest Ohio, 197 intermediate students (ages 8-13) where surveyed using the Olweus Bully/Victim Questionnaire (BVQ) consisting of 39 items that measured the frequency and degree of bullying behaviors for both the victim and the bully (Olweus, 2004). The results of this survey revealed that nearly half of all students had not been bullied in the past couple of months; however, 15% had been bullied several times a week, though 8.2% claim that bullying has gone on for several years. Students were bullied most frequently by being called names, made fun of or teased in a hurtful way. Victims were typically bullied by one boy in their class, but it was also reported that both boys and girls bully others. Bullying behaviors are also more likely to occur in unstructured and unsupervised areas. The Rosenberg Self-Esteem Survey (SES) was also administered to measure the levels of student self-esteem. This survey consisted of 10 items that revealed student self-worth, attitude, and satisfaction with oneself. Students overall had a positive self-esteem. However, some students did feel useless at times and wish they could have more respect for themselves. When examining the relationship between bullying behaviors and self-esteem, a significantly negative mutual relationship was found to exist between the bullying behaviors of victims and bullies and their self-esteem. A significant difference was also found between the bullying behaviors of victims in grade 3 and grade 4. Students in grade 5 exhibited significantly lower levels of self-esteem as the bully than students in grades 3 and 4. Students in grade 4 reportedly had the highest levels of self-esteem and the lowest levels of both victim and bully experiences. As bullying behaviors increased, levels of self-esteem decreased. Lower levels of self-esteem also increased bullying behaviors. In addition, as self-esteem increased, bullying behaviors decreased for both the victim and the bully. It is recommended that educational leaders work to create a sense of urgency within their schools that addresses bullying behaviors in order to develop a positive, caring, safe and secure educational environment where learning thrives and respect for others abounds. Local school board policies regarding bullying should be current, relevant, and clearly communicated to the school community. While there are numerous programs that can be implemented to address bullying behaviors, none are more comparable than the building-up of caring relationships between parents and their children and staff and their students that foster care and respect for others. These are the relationships that bind and which help children to find their own special interests, encouraging them to build up their individual self-esteem. It is also recommended that additional studies be conducted on the long-term effects of bullying and self-esteem as well as the more current issues of cyber bullying, examining the profiles of victims who become passive/aggressive cyber bullies and who have the potential to become violent and cause harm to others in the immediate or near future.