School Factors Related to Bullying, Research Paper Example

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Research Paper

School factors related to bullying: a qualitative study of early adolescent students Bibou-Nakou · J. Tsiantis · H. Assimopoulos · P. Chatzilambou · D. Giannakopoulou

An Overview

In this study, the researchers proposed a qualitative study to examine the issue of bullying among young adolescents. Asserting that the bulk of bullying studies have been based on quantitative, rather than quantitative, analyses, the researchers posited what they considered to be a more encompassing and inclusive approach to gathering information. Using the results of 14 focus group studies conducted with 90 secondary school students, the researchers concluded that bullying is a complex phenomenon, involving factors related to both the school and home environments; further they conclude, the home environments plays a significant role in how students deal with bullying or become bullies themselves. This overview will be organized using the same structure the researchers used in their study.

Introduction

The researchers begin their discussion with an overview of the prevailing literature and information available on bullying. Much emphasis has been placed on quantitative research; studies have been done to determine, among other things, the “prevalence, frequency, intensity, duration, place of occurrence, sex differences, different forms and methods of bullying (physical, verbal, relational), behavioral traits of the participants, single or multiple victimization and so on.” This view of bullying, according to this study, views the victims of bullying as “passive victims,” and fails to consider the views of adolescents where bullying is concerned. This sort of quantitative research is often gathered from surveys and questionnaires; the researchers eschewed such an approach, opting instead to gather information from discussion- and focus-group accounts. The researchers described their approach in this way: “We believe that discussing with young people about their social relationships at school would allow us and them to gain a better understanding of the issue of bullying within and in relation to the school context.”

Theoretical background of the study

Recent studies on bullying are moving towards a more qualitative approach, and recognize children as “social actors” who are “active in the negotiation and construction of social reality.” This view rejects the idea that bullying can be understood simply through statistical analysis; bullying prevention is not just about making changes to school environments based on statistics, but instead must include an understanding of the social context in which bullies and victims interact. The study also takes into account the relatively recent social policy movements that recognize the value and significance of children’s rights, further advancing the idea that the prevention of bullying must include understanding of, and input from, adolescents themselves.

Methodology

The research was carried out at 5 different schools with different socioeconomic demographics. 14 groups of 90 students ages 13-15 were gathered; each group had 5-8 members.

The researchers endeavored to allow students to self-assign to the various groups, based on the assumption that such an approach would facilitate communication based on the familiarity and comfort of the group members. Each group was posed a range of questions on issues such as “(a) the ways young people form their social relationships at school (b) How they make friends, and (c) issues of disputes and conflict in peer relations.” The researchers were interested in learning about “the forms of relationships young people describe in the school versus home setting” and determining which students referred to “the school as a significant factor in negotiating and understanding bullying.”

Data Analysis

The researchers were interested in “the ways (a) young adolescents talk about their social relations at school versus home, and (b) they construct bullying as a school related issue.” In an effort to maintain anonymity, the schools were referred to in the results by their initials, and student’s names were not used. In 8 of the 14 focus groups, students recounted incidents of bullying that had either happened to them or to their peers, often describing these incidents “in considerable detail.” The researchers further described many of the reports from the students as providing “rich, believable data.” They concluded that the issue of bullying was a “legitimate” concern for most of the students involved, whether or not the individual students had been bullied themselves.

The researchers described their approach to analyzing the data as a variant of Potter and Wetherell’s (1987) and Parker’s (1992) version of the Discourse Analysis method.” As described in the study, this meant that the results were gleaned from the thematic content of the discourse among the students, rather than the properties of the individuals. The adherence to the guidelines of anonymity further strengthened this approach, ensuring that the data was not skewed by observations about the personalities of the individual respondents.

Analytical Process

The analysis of the results was carried out by reading and re-reading the transcripts of the focus-group results, looking for recurring themes and patterns in the data. These patterns and themes, once identified, were divided into basic categories, and the results of the focus groups were sectioned off into one or more of these categories. The purpose of identifying such patterns was so that researchers could better establish which material in the data was relevant, and which represented material that was not helpful or applicable for the purposes of the study. Further, they noted, it was necessary to understand that different students had different ways of addressing or otherwise dealing with similar themes and patterns; as such, this analytical approach helped the researchers identify material that was contextually similar despite seeming, at first glance to be disparate or divergent.

Results

After making an effort to separate the useful and relevant material from the less-substantive or relevant material, the researchers were left with a sometimes-harrowing series of anecdotes and personal accounts from those who had either witnessed acts of bullying, or had themselves been victims of bullying. What the evidence showed was that many of the students felt that the schools and their home environments did not feel connected to the real problems associated with bullying as seen from the perspective of the students themselves. One student noted, for example, that one of his teachers had a tendency to divide students in groups for classroom activities with no consideration for the dynamics of each group; such an oblivious approach meant that bullies and victims were often grouped together by this teacher.

Conclusion

While a full accounting of the data, or the results of the analysis, is beyond the scope of this summary, it is clear that the issue of bullying is a far more complicated matter than a simple statistical model can adequately address. In attempting to involve students in their study on a qualitative level, the researchers have provided a richer and broader examination of the subject of bullying. Their study serves as both a powerful tool for understanding the issue of bullying, and an excellent starting point for further research on the subject.

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