All ETDs from UAB

Advisory Committee Chair

Sylvie Mrug

Advisory Committee Members

Suzanne Perumean-Chaney

David Schwebel

Document Type

Thesis

Date of Award

2017

Degree Name by School

Master of Arts (MA) College of Arts and Sciences

Abstract

Witnessing school violence predicts poorer academic performance and psychological well-being among adolescents. Violence rates and students’ feelings of safety vary across schools, and some variance can be attributed to school-level variables. The present study examined relationships among school-level variables and perceptions of violence and safety. Middle (grades 6-8) and high (grades 9-12) school students (N = 26,313; 52.9% middle school, 47.2% female; mean age 14.44 years; 50.1% African American, 38.0% Caucasian, 11.9% other or undisclosed) from two large urban and suburban school districts self-reported how often they perpetrated violence with and without weapons, were victims of violence, or felt unsafe at school. School-level variables included poverty, ethnic composition (percent minority), absenteeism, achievement, school size, and student-teacher ratio. Multilevel linear regressions predicted violence perpetration with and without weapons, victimization, and safety perceptions using simple (one school variable at a time) and adjusted (all school variables entered together) models. In simple models, poverty predicted more perpetration with and without weapons and poorer safety perceptions, but ethnic composition and absenteeism were more robust predictors of perpetration in adjusted models. Achievement predicted greater safety perceptions despite higher victimization rates in middle schools. Although larger schools had less perpetration, students felt safer in smaller schools. Student-teacher ratio was unrelated to perceived violence or safety. Future research should further explore absenteeism’s role in school safety, incorporate a more ethnically heterogeneous sample of students, and examine interactions between individual- and school-level characteristics to pinpoint which students perceive more violence or feel less safe under certain school conditions.

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