Virginia middle school students in areas where President Donald Trump received more votes than Hillary Clinton in 2016 have become more inclined to bully, according to a recent study.
The Virginian-Pilot reported on Thursday that the study, conducted by researchers at the University of Missouri and the University of Virginia, found that bullying rates were 18 percent higher in such areas in the spring of 2017 — shortly after Trump moved into the White House.
There were no meaningful differences in bullying and teasing rates between Democratic and Republican localities before the 2016 election. But a statewide sample of more than 155,000 seventh- and eighth-grade students across Virginia's 132 school districts suggested a correlation between voter preference and the rise in bullying after Trump was inaugurated.
The research, conducted by professors at the University of Missouri and the University of Virginia and published online Wednesday in a peer-reviewed journal, does not blame Trump specifically for the rise. But it says: "It is obviously difficult to demonstrate a causal link between statements by a public figure and schoolyard bullying. Nevertheless, there are incidents in which youth made threats and jeering statements that closely matched language used by President Trump. Such incidents are suggestive of the social learning model of aggression and classic studies showing how easily children model the aggressive behavior of adults."
Co-author Dewey Cornell, a professor of education at the University of Virginia, said in a statement that adults must be aware of the impact that public event might have on students, even though “the ways in which the presidential election could have affected students is likely complex”.
“Parents should be mindful of how their reactions to the presidential election, or the reactions of others, could influence their children,” Cornell said. “And politicians should be mindful of the potential impact of their campaign rhetoric and behavior on their supporters and indirectly on youth."
The study took into account several locality-wide variables, including prior bullying and teasing rates, socioeconomic status, population density and the percentage of white student enrollment, the report said.