Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)


Graduate Department of Clinical Psychology

First Advisor

Nancy Thurston

Second Advisor

Hannah Stere

Third Advisor

Kathleen A. Gathercoal


In light of school violence, bullying has been exposed as an important factor in student well-being and safety. This study investigated changes in shame dynamics and student attitudes related to bullying before and after students participated in a bullying prevention program offered at an elementary school. Students from four, third-grade classrooms (n = 118) participated in curriculum from Steps to Respect, a bullying prevention program. Students were administered questionnaires measuring perceptions and attitudes related to bullying at school and cards from the Thurston-Cradock Test of Shame (TCT) , a projective test designed to assess shame dynamics, and rated by teachers as bullies, victims, or bystanders.

As expected, in students identified by teachers as victims, perceptions of adult and bystander responsibility and likelihood of using assertiveness in response to bullying scenarios increased, while acceptance of bullying behaviors decreased, after participating in Steps to Respect curriculum. In the entire sample, perceived assertiveness increased, acceptance of bullying decreased, and perceptions of adult and bystander responsibility did not change significantly following the intervention. Interestingly, students' projective stories included more themes of inflation and more references to bullying following the intervention. Students identified as bullies received higher maladaptive resolution scores following the intervention, demonstrating decreased coping abilities to resolve issues of shame and conflicts after they become aware of the presence of bullying around them. Bullying prevention programs need to continue reaching out to students identified as victims and bystanders by providing training in community responsibility, definitions of bullying behaviors, and assertiveness training. These programs should also address the need for empathy and mental health intervention for both victims and bullies while paying attention to shame dynamics throughout the process.

Included in

Psychology Commons