Shelley Hymel

Prospective Graduate Students / Postdocs

This faculty member is currently not actively recruiting graduate students or Postdoctoral Fellows, but might consider co-supervision together with another faculty member.


Research Classification

Social Contexts
Social Determinants of Child and Youth Development
Social Networks
Educational Approaches
Learning and Development Approaches

Research Interests

social development
peer relations in children and youth
school violence
bullying and victimization
Social Emotional Learning
mental health and wellbeing
interpersonal relations among children and youth

Relevant Degree Programs


Research Methodology

survey research with children and youth
interview research with children and youth
school-university collaborative research

Graduate Student Supervision

Doctoral Student Supervision (Jan 2008 - Mar 2019)
Executive functions and subtypes of aggression in young children (2014)

No abstract available.

Growing up in Canada : youth ethnic identity and Canadian identity (2014)

The present study examined early (grades 6-7) and middle adolescents’ (grades 8-9) sense of belonging to school and to Canada. Belonging entails feelings of connectedness to our families, friends, schools, communities, and nations. Several studies have investigated adolescents’ sense of belonging to school but few have examined whether youths’ belonging to school varied as a function of ethnicity, time lived in Canada, ethnic discrimination, and ethnic identity. Moreover, early and middle adolescents’ belonging to Canada has never been studied. Thus, the primary objective of the present study was to examine the role of youths’ 1) time in Canada, 2) ethnicity, 3) their experiences with peer ethnic discrimination at school and 4) ethnic identity in explaining their sense of belonging to school and to Canada, respectively. The secondary objective of this study was to examine two distinct dimensions of ethnic identity – private regard and public regard – within a Canadian context. Early and middle adolescents enrolled in schools in Vancouver lower mainland participated in the present study. The first group included 158 students in grades 6 and 7 and the second group included 340 students in grades 8 and 9. Students in grades 6-7 were interviewed individually. Students in grades 8-9 were asked to complete a paper-and-pencil survey during a single group testing session. Results showed that discrimination was linked to both private and public regard. Additionally, for middle adolescents, the link between discrimination and public regard varied as a function of ethnicity. Years lived in Canada was linked to belonging to Canada, with students who have lived in Canada for six years or less reporting lower levels of belonging than their peers who have lived in Canada all their life. Higher levels of ethnic discrimination were associated with lower levels of school belonging but not lower levels of Canadian belonging. As hypothesized, positive levels of private and public regard were associated with their sense of belonging to school and to Canada. Importantly, years lived in Canada significantly moderated the link between ethnic regard and belonging. The present study demonstrated the complexity of studying ethnic regard and Canadian belonging during adolescence.

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The social experiences of secondary students with intellectual and learning disabilities : school safety, victimization, risk-taking, and feelings of belonging (2013)

This study examined the social and behavioural experiences of secondary students (grades 8-12), comparing a school-based sample of 151 adolescents identified with mild intellectual disabilities or specific learning disabilities, and a school- grade-, sex-, and ethnically-matched group of adolescents without disabilities in terms of self-reported victimization, bullying, racial discrimination, gender harassment, sexual imposition, feelings of school safety, and belongingness, as well as engagement in high-risk behaviours (alcohol/drug use, violent behaviour). Results of a series of planned contrasts indicated that adolescents with mild intellectual disabilities and specific learning disabilities did not report greater rates of victimization or bullying, nor did they report lower feelings of school safety or belonging, or engagement in high-risk behaviours (i.e., drug use, alcohol use, violent behavior) than their peers without disabilities. As well, adolescents with mild intellectual disabilities and specific learning disabilities did not differ from each other on these indices. Sex differences were also non-significant. Bi-variate correlations generally indicated that the relationships between victimization, bullying, and associated socio-environmental variables such as school safety, engagement in high-risk behaviours, and feelings of belonging did not significantly differ between students with mild intellectual disabilities and students without disabilities, but did for students with specific learning disabilities. Specifically, findings from this study failed to find a significant association between school belonging and victimization, victimization and alcohol use, victimization and violent behaviour, as well as bullying and alcohol use for students with specific learning disabilities. Sex differences among these relationships were also examined, and for the most part were non-significant. However, there were a few exceptions. Namely, the relationship between feelings of school belonging and victimization was significant for boys with specific learning disabilities, but not for girls. Similarly, the relationship between bullying and drug use was higher for boys without disabilities than it was for girls.

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Personality disorder traits and antisocial behaviour in adolescents (2012)

In an effort to further understand the contribution of maladaptive personality characteristics to the expression of distinct forms of antisocial behaviour during adolescence, this study examined links between personality disorder traits, physical and social aggression, and nonaggressive antisocial behaviour over one year. A community sample of adolescents (n=182) completed self-reports of physical and social aggression and nonaggressive antisocial behaviour during the summer between the 10th and 11th grades. Participants’ parents (n=192) completed a measure assessing the adolescents’ personality disorder traits when the youths were 15 years of age in 2009, and their teachers (n=154) completed measures of the frequency of adolescents’ perpetration of physical and social aggression during the following academic year. Analyses, conducted separately for boys and girls, explored the links between broad personality disorder factors and facet-level traits as predictors of teacher- and self-rated physical and social aggression, and nonaggressive antisocial behaviour. Results of a series of multiple regression analyses revealed that disagreeableness emerged as a strong predictor of teacher-rated social aggression, self-rated physical aggression and nonaggressive antisocial behaviour in girls but not boys. Broad personality disorder traits did not predict self-rated social aggression. Findings from the facet level revealed that, in contrast with previous research, associations were not found between aspects of disagreeableness, emotional instability, compulsivity and nonaggressive antisocial behaviour in boys. Further, facets within the introversion factor strongly predicted self-rated physical and teacher-rated social aggression for girls only. Findings highlight the importance of examining both higher- and lower-order maladaptive personality traits and considering gender differences in trait expression, in understanding the perpetration of distinct forms of adolescent antisocial behaviour.

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Understanding early adolescents' social behaviours and relationships with peers (2011)

Hawley (1999) proposed that the ability to consider one’s own characteristics in relation to the characteristics of interaction partners is an adaptive social skill in guiding the use of prosocial or aggressive behaviour. Although research has shown that social status is associated with aggression and prosocial behaviour generally, we know very little about how youths’ behaviours directed toward certain types of peers (e.g., friends vs. nonfriends; popular vs. unpopular peers) vary as a function of their own social status. The purpose of the present study was to evaluate variability in early adolescents’ aggressive and prosocial behaviours across peer targets and determine whether higher status youth behave differently toward specific types of peers as compared to lower status youth. Early adolescents in grades 6 through 8 (N = 426) completed self-report measures assessing how often they engaged in aggressive or prosocial behaviours toward each participating peer in their grade. Participants also completed self-report measures assessing their relationship with each grademate (i.e., friendship, liking) in addition to peer-report measures of three indices of social status (i.e., social preference/likeability, perceived popularity, social dominance). Results showed that, regardless of their own social status, early adolescents varied their behaviours toward different types of peers to some degree. However, high and low status youth often behaved differently toward certain types of peers. Importantly, a distinct pattern of findings was apparent for each index of social status. Among the findings, the results showed that popular, but not unpopular, youth reported more prosocial and aggressive behaviours toward popular and personally liked peers than toward unpopular and personally disliked peers. Well-accepted, but not rejected, youth reported engaging in prosocial behaviours toward a variety of peers in addition to greater relational aggression toward friends than nonfriends. Finally, dominant, but not subordinate, youth reported greater aggression toward dominant than subordinate peers. The present study has demonstrated the value of examining multiple social status indices and of considering toward whom youth direct their aggressive and prosocial behaviours to obtain a richer understanding of the complex social processes involved in the early adolescent peer group.

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An Investigation of Anger: An Attachment Perspective (2010)

No abstract available.

Social problem-solving and emotion processes among early adolescent bystanders in hypothetical bullying situations (2010)

In an effort to understand bystander behavior, the purpose of this study was to examine the role of emotions and peer relationships on early adolescent bystanders’ social problem-solving. Students in grades 6 and 7 (N = 349) read a series of hypothetical bullying vignettes and were asked to imagine that what happens to the victim in each vignette happens to a self-nominated friend or non-friend. Students were then asked about their feelings (i.e., initial emotion, initial emotional display, level of emotion, intention to dissemble), strategies, and goals. Research questions considered links between strategies and goals, whether social problem-solving and emotion processes varied as a function of gender and friendship status with the victim, and links between social problem-solving and emotion processes. Results of canonical correlation showed that bystanders who endorsed strategies likely to perpetuate bullying were less motivated to pursue goals aimed at assisting the victim, giving higher ratings instead to self-focused and anti-social goals. With few exceptions, a series of 2 X 2 (gender [boys, girls] X friendship status [friend versus non-friend]) repeated measures analyses of variance (ANOVA) highlighted that bystanders’ strategies and goals varied as a function of gender and friendship status with the victim. Girls generally favored prosocial strategies and goals more than boys; intervention was more likely on behalf of friends. A series of gender X friendship status repeated measures ANOVAs examining bystanders’ emotion processes showed that friendship status was important. For instance, bystanders indicated that they would experience more anger and would be more willing to show their anger in a hypothetical bullying situation involving a bullied friend. Finally, results of a series of hierarchical multiple regressions showed that the degree to which bystanders thought they would experience different emotions emerged as a strong predictor of individual strategies and goals in hypothetical situations, particularly when the situation involved a non-friend. Findings highlight the importance of emotions, peer relationships, and gender as related to bystander social problem-solving in hypothetical situations with implications for increasing peer intervention.

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Master's Student Supervision (2010-2017)
Teachers’ emotion regulation as a protective factor against burnout (2016)

Burnout, a phenomenon which involves emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and reduced personal accomplishment, is one reason that many educators report leaving the teaching profession. Many of the risk factors associated with burnout have been explored at great length but very little attention has been paid to the protective factors that might mitigate burnout. Accordingly, this study examined the role emotion regulation, both the general knowledge of emotion regulation skills and the reported use of cognitive reappraisal and expressive suppression, two common emotion regulation strategies, plays in relation to job satisfaction and burnout. Participants were 233 K-12 teachers who were enrolled in the Summer Principals Academy graduate program for aspiring teacher leaders at Teacher College, Columbia University, between 2008 and 2012. Participants completed self-reported measures regarding their use of cognitive reappraisal and expressive suppression, job satisfaction and two aspects of burnout (personal accomplishment and emotional exhaustion). Participants also completed a performance measure of Emotional Intelligence, which included a knowledge test of overall emotion regulation ability. Results of simultaneous hierarchical regression analyses indicated that, contrary to hypotheses, emotion regulation was not, a protective factor against teachers’ experience of burnout in the present sample. The study begs replication, however, as the present sample was not fully representative of the general teaching population (i.e., participants were highly satisfied with their jobs and were studying to become school administrators).

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The general theory of crime applied to bullying perpetration : does school climate moderate the relationship between self-control and bullying? (2016)

In order to understand bullying behaviour, one must consider student characteristics, the social context of the behaviour, and the interactions among them. To this end, this study examined the applicability of Gottfredson and Hirschi’s General Theory of Crime to bullying perpetration, which posits that crime and other deviant behaviours are a manifestation of two converging factors: low self-control and opportunity. This study explored whether school climate served as an “opportunity” for bullying behaviour. An ethnically diverse sample of 979 students in grades 4-7 reported on the frequency with which they engaged in bullying, their perceptions of school climate, and their levels of self-control. Results revealed that low self-control and various school climate factors each predicted bullying perpetration, although the interaction between the variables was not significant. That is, students with low self-control were more likely to engage in bullying behaviours, as were individuals with poorer perceptions of school climate. These results highlight the necessity for bullying interventions to consider both individual characteristics and social contexts. Specifically, schools would benefit from implementing programs that address social emotional learning with a particular focus on fostering self-control and positive school climates.

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School violence : individual and group influences (2015)

Weapon carrying at school has been explained by a number of theories, but two dominate the literature: being fearful and trying to protect oneself from harm (fear-victimization hypothesis) or displaying behaviour consistent with a deviant lifestyle (lifestyle theory). This study replicated previous research by investigating the relative and combined influence of individual level processes related to weapon carrying, as hypothesized by the fear-victimization hypothesis (i.e., fear of victimization and victimization experiences) and lifestyle theory (i.e., alcohol and drug use). This study extended previous research by also considering an ecological model of weapon carrying by examining school level processes that may impact student weapon-carrying. Data was obtained from students (N= 50,334) in grades 8-12 in 69 schools in Western Canada who completed the Safe Schools and Social Responsibility Survey. Multilevel modeling was used to evaluate both individual and school level variables that underlie the two major theories of weapon carrying among youth. Results at the individual level provided support for both the fear-victimization hypothesis and the lifestyle theory, suggesting multiple pathways to deviant behaviour. Support was also found for the hypothesis that some school-level variables, as reflected in the collective experiences of the student body, influenced the relationship between individual level processes (i.e., a students reported fear of victimization, victimization experiences, and substance use) and weapon carrying.

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The interplay of emotional awareness and emotion regulation strategies in peer victimization (2015)

Peer victimization is an emotionally charged experience, one that is all too common in schools today. Although there is an increasing body of research on the emotional processes involved in bullying and victimization, we still know very little about emotional competencies and emotion regulation strategies used by children that enhance or reduce their risk of being victimized at school. This study examined two interrelated components of emotional competence: emotional awareness and the use of two well-researched emotion regulation strategies- cognitive reappraisal and expressive suppression, and their association with school victimization. In particular, the study investigated the contribution of children’s levels of emotional awareness to their risk of victimization, and how using an antecedent-focused strategy such as reappraisal, or a response-focused strategy such as suppression influences this relationship. Participants were 607 students in grades 4-7 who completed self-report measures of emotional awareness, emotion regulation strategy use (cognitive reappraisal and expressive suppression), and experiences of victimization at school. Ordinary least squares regression analyses were conducted to explore the associations between low emotional awareness and the use of specific emotion regulation strategies. Results indicated that low emotional awareness was a predictor for the use of suppression as an emotion regulation strategy. Results of binary logistic regression analysis, examining the contributions of low emotional awareness and the use of suppression and reappraisal to reported victimization showed that low emotional awareness was associated with increased odds of being victimized, and that the use of suppression as an emotion regulation strategy decreased the odds of being victimized. For this age group, then, using suppression as an emotion regulation strategy is adaptive for decreasing the risk of victimization, particularly for children with low emotional awareness.

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Getting off to a good start : problem behaviours, teacher-child relationship quality, and early school adjustment (2014)

Difficulty adjusting during the first years of school is associated with negative long-term academic and behaviour outcomes (Alexander, Entwisle, & Horsey, 1997; Ladd & Dinella, 2009; Qualter, Brown, Munn, & Rotenberg, 2010). Externalizing and internalizing behaviour problems can interfere with the ability to engage in learning or get along with others at school. Teacher-child relationship quality has been found to predict a variety of academic and social outcomes for children (e.g., Hamre & Pianta, 2001; Ladd & Burgess, 2001; Maldonado-Carreño & Votruba-Drzal, 2011; Pianta & Stuhlman, 2004). Of interest in the current study is whether teacher-child relationships moderate or mediate the association between problem behaviours observed at school and student ratings of school adjustment. The sample of students (n = 482) was taken from a longitudinal study of the school adjustment of Italian school children. Results from sequential regression analyses indicated that teacher ratings of students’ externalizing behaviours were related to student self-reports of loneliness at school and school liking. There was no evidence that teacher-child relationship features mediated the association between problem behaviours and school adjustment, although teacher-child closeness was found to moderate the relationship between physical aggression and school liking.

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Children's perspectives on relationships with non-parental adults : insights from a structured intergenerational program (2012)

A considerable number of studies have documented the importance of the relationships between adolescents and non-parental adults as contributors to development. However, few studies have investigated these relationships in middle childhood. Even fewer studies have explored how the qualities of such relationships contribute to positive outcomes. Considering the gaps in this field of study, the present study explored the qualities of relationships between children in middle childhood and non-parental adults that developed in a structured, intergenerational, environmental education program, completed as a part of children’s environmental science curriculum. Specifically, this study investigated (a) whether children who were involved in this program had more positive attitudes, behaviors, and learning compared to students who were not in the program and (b) how children characterized the qualities of the relationships that developed, and (c) whether those relationships between children and non-parental adult volunteers in the program contributed to the outcomes (N = 211). Results showed that children in the program had more positive attitudes and learning toward environmental issues than children in the comparison group. Qualities of relationship examined also showed positive relations with children’s perceptions of affiliation with the non-parental adults and bonding toward the program, as well as student reported positive outcomes (attitudes, behaviors, and learning regarding environmental issues). Implications and limitations of the study are discussed, as well as directions for future research.

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Witnessing bullying at school : the influence of bullying and victimization on bystander behaviour (2011)

Bullying at school is a widespread and persistent problem facing Canadian youth today (Craig & Harel, 2004). In addition to the small but significant minority of students who are involved directly as bullies and victims, more than two thirds of youth are bystanders or witnesses to school-based violence ( Craig & Pepler, 1997; Salmivalli, Lagerspetz, Björkqvist, & Osterman, 1996; Salmivalli, Lappalainen, & Lagerspetz, 1998). Given the high probability that students will at some point in their school career witness bullying, it is important to examine the risks and responsibilities associated with being a bystander. Successful efforts to reduce or eliminate bullying requires knowledge of the types of strategies peers are likely to use to respond to bullying, as well as the students who are most likely to engage in these behaviours. This research investigated how secondary students’ bystander behaviour varied as a function of their age, gender, and concurrent experiences with bullying and/or victimization at school. In a school-based survey examining social experiences at school, Grade 8 to 12 students (N= 50,334, 49% male) who reported witnessing bullying (n=18,839) rated how often they had engaged in different bystander responses. Results of a series of hierarchical regressions indicated that student’s gender and personal experiences with bullying and victimization each accounted for a small but significant proportion of variance for prosocial, aggressive and passive bystander responses; age was only a significant predictor for passive bystander behaviour. These results both confirm and extend the literature on bystanders and bullying, and suggest a number of important areas for future research. Gaining a better understanding of the individual characteristics and contextual factors that encourage or discourage bystander’s defending behaviour can assist educators in developing and delivering effective school-based anti-bullying programs that promote safe and positive bystander intervention.

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Does appearance matter? : school bullying and body-esteem in early adolescence (2010)

The present study integrates previous research in two distinct but related areas to address the links between physical size/weight, as measured by Body Mass Index (BMI), body-esteem, and peer bullying. Previous research on bullying has shown that being a victim of bullying is associated with lower levels of body-esteem; previous research has also shown that peer teasing, particularly teasing about physical appearance, partially mediates the relationship between BMI and body-esteem. Replicating and extending this research, the present study explored whether peer victimization, like teasing, serves to partially mediate the link between BMI and body-esteem, considering both general bullying and specific forms of bullying as well as bullying targeted directly at physical appearance/weight among both boys and girls in middle school (N = 801). As in prior research, high BMI was associated with poor body-esteem for girls, although for boys both high and low BMI were associated with poor body-esteem for boys (quadratic relation). As well, links between victimization and different aspects of body-esteem were demonstrated, particularly for body-esteem about appearance and weight for girls, and for all types of body-esteem (appearance, weight, and attribution) for boys. Moreover, peer victimization was found to serve as a partial mediator in the relationship between BMI and body-esteem for girls and boys. For girls, verbal victimization and victimization about physical appearance, weight, and body shape served as partial mediators in the relationship between BMI and appearance body-esteem, as well as BMI and weight body-esteem. For boys, a similar meditational role of victimization was demonstrated, but only for those who were above average in weight. Future directions, limitations, strengths, unique contributions, and implications are discussed.

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