Theses and Dissertations

Issuing Body

Mississippi State University


May, David C.

Committee Member

Barranco, Raymond Edward

Committee Member

Haynes, Stacy H.

Committee Member

Rader, Nicole E.

Committee Member

Sinclair, H. Colleen

Date of Degree


Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access



Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


College of Arts and Sciences


Department of Sociology


The purpose of this dissertation is to extend General Strain Theory (GST) to examine prosocial, asocial, and antisocial behavior in response to bullying. In GST, Agnew (1992; 2001; 2013) asserted that negative emotions can lead to criminal or aggressive coping but there are a number of factors that increase or decrease the propensity to respond aggressively (Agnew, 1992; Richman & Leary, 2009). In this dissertation, I examine whether and how rejection (operationalized as bullying victimization) is associated with aggressive responding as opposed to prosocial (e.g., befriending others) or asocial (e.g., avoiding people and social events) responding. This dissertation consists of three studies testing theoretical variables of bullying victimization as well as behavioral responses to four types of bullying: physical, verbal, relational, and cyber. Study 1 of this dissertation examines risk and protective factors for types of bullying victimization. Study 2 applies GST to test the effect of social support, or the availability of alternative relationships (i.e., having others to count on or turn to for social support), on responses to four types of bullying. Study 3 tests the effect of power dynamics on responses to physical and relational bullying. In conducting this research, I hope to: 1) integrate interdisciplinary bodies of literature to examine risk and protective factors of bullying victimization and behavioral responses to bullying and 2) improve understanding of how these experiences are affected by the power dynamics involved in bullying. Overall, the results of this dissertation suggest that types of negative emotions and behavioral outcomes vary by type of bullying victimization. Cyber bullying was found to have more negative consequences than any other form of bullying. Across all four forms of bullying, social support was found to be associated with an increased likelihood of youth engaging in prosocial behavior. Implicit power, or the perception that one’s bully has a high social standing at school, significantly influenced responses based on the type of bullying. However, even when controlling for power dynamics, social support was still associated with increased prosocial behavior in response to bullying victimization. Theory and policy implications are discussed.



cyber bullying||relational aggression||relational bullying||verbal bullying||physical bullying||prosocial behavior||asocial behavior||bullying||general strain theory||antisocial behavior||school safety