Social Psychology of Violence and Bullying in Schools Research Paper

Introduction

Bullyingcan be broadly taken to mean the repeated use of force by some students to acquire domination over others(Smith & Brain, 2000). Bullying takes many forms ranging from physical bullying to sexual assault. However, bullying entails four major types, viz. emotional, verbal, physical, and cyber bullying(Baldry, 2003). Such acts amount to bullying when the doer does them intentionally in order to hurt the other party or acquire some advantage at the expense of the victim. Bullying is a common phenomenon in schools and it is reported that it results in violence in learning institutions in the end (Adams, 2014).

Bullying comes due to imbalance of social or physical power among students(Perius et al., 2014). The vice is further compounded by diversity in race, ethnicity, and religion. In the recent past, bullying has increased overwhelmingly in schools. Unfortunately, this retrogressive behavior reportedly affects many students, which leads to poor academic performance (Cooper, Clements, & Holt, 2012).

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According to the available statistics, about 40%-80% of American children experience bullying at some stage in their school life (Berezina & Bovina, 2013). Statistics also indicate that students from low social-economic backgrounds are the most affected. According to a study carried out by the American Psychological Association, about 40% of students admitted that they had been bullied at one point in their lives (Perius, Brooks-Russell, Jing & Iannotti, 2014). The study also indicated that 70% of secondary school students in the United States experience repeated bullying in learning institutions.

Apparently, bullying is the major cause of violence among students in schools. Bullying can occur in any social setting involving human interaction such as in schools, home, workplace, sports, and towns. However, this essay will only analyze bullying in schools, since learning institutions are the most affected areas. The paper will analyze the major forms of bullying in schools and give a walk over approach to the available statistics on the vice.

At times, students organize themselves into groups based on their social class, race, or religion and the superior groupings will tend to intimidate other students. In many parts of the world, bullying is prohibited with some nations such as the US imposing certain laws barring students from harassing their fellow students(Cooper, Clements, & Holt, 2012). While other forms of crimes such as murder and assault receive high media attention, bullying in schools is rarely covered over the media, and this aspect enables the perpetrators to escape the law.

Bullying has been in existence for many centuries, but it was not recognized until recently when it was redefined to underscore an offence by itself. Bullying has raised concerns from school authorities, parents, and guardians who have now come in the open to oppose the vice(Berezina & Bovina, 2013). Bullying can be bodily or oral and it can end up inviolence and in most cases, the injured party may resort to violence in reaction to the tremendous nature of nuisance (Spriggs, Iannotti, Nansel & Haynie, 2007). Targets of bullying acts in most cases suffer psychological, social, and bodily damage.

Literature review

In their article, “Violence at school: socio-psychological explanations and recommendations”, Berezina and Bovina (2013)adopt a socio-psychological approach when defining bullying and violence in schools. The article describes the various forms of bullying common in schools coupled with discussing efforts by various organizations to counter the rising vice. The article places much weight on group bullying as opposed to one-on-one bullying. It defines bullying to involve all the involved parties, viz. the person doing the bullying, the bystanders, and the sympathizers.

The article, “Violence in the School Setting: A School Nurse Perspective”, by King (2014) acknowledges the role of school nurses in reducing violent acts in school.School nurses play an important role in preventing and combating undesirable behaviors amongst students. School nurses are close to students since they are rarely involved in disciplinary issues and decision-making.

Therefore, students feel free to interact with nurses and through this relation, the nurse is in a position to understand the problem of violence in schools better as compared to anyone else in a given institution. King (20124) outlines the importance of school nurses in averting violence among students. The author paints a picture on the actual role of school nurses in preventing violent activities in schools. The article outlines the various forms of bullying that affect students at different levels.

Perius et al. (2014) analyze the incidences of violent acts in schools between the year 1998 and 2010 by comparing the reported bullying cases in that period annually. Perius et al. (2014) base their argument on a research conducted on teens in various levels, and thus the results of the findings realistic and unbiased. The authors acknowledge the view that socio-economical classes, gender, and ethnicity are the predisposing factors of bullying. In addition, the authors view the bullying process as a cycle where the harassed individuals tend to revenge by harassing some other group of students.

Cyber bullying

Cyber-bullying refers to any kind of bullying perpetuated using information technology (Nansel, Overpeck, Haynie, Ruan & Scheidt, 2003). Cyber bullying is gaining momentum due to the view that most students have joined the social media where they can interact freely with anyone. A study carried out between 2009 and 2013 revealed that 95% of students have witnessed a threat through the social media. In many cases, perpetrators of this form of bullying go unnoticed due to the complexity and technicality involved as well as ignorance by both the authorities and guardians.

Cyber-bullying is the most anonymous form of bullying since the perpetrator can conceal him/her identity, thus becoming difficult to trace the person(King, 2014). Cyber bullying can take the form of text messages, emails, social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and instant messages among others (Baldry, 2003). This form of bullying is difficult to detect eventhough various organizations have come up to oppose this form of bullying.

Attempts by schools’ authorities to fight cyber bullying has not been successful since such activities mostly happen during non-school hours and the authorities are criticized for exceeding their mandate by investigating actions by students when outside school(Spriggs et al., 2007).

This aspect gives the perpetrators of this form of bullying an incentive to continue with the vice, since they usually go unpunished. Due to the increased incidences of cyber bullying, institutions in the US have launched bullying awareness campaigns aimed at educating teens on the proper use of social media(Baldry, 2003). There have also been calls to social media operators to take responsibility and outline terms of use to avert such bullying.

Disability bullying

Physically challenged persons stand a higher chance of being bullied by other physically fit students. Students with learning disabilities face criticism and they may suffer emotionally due to stigma. They are often ignored due to their inability to express themselves(Perius et al., 2014). This aspect may expose them to stigma and stress and are thus they can be said to be emotionally harassed.

Sexual bullying

Sexual bullying is any form of bullying involving sexual organs(Nansel et al., 2003). In this case, sex is deployed as a tool either by males against females or by females against males. It can take the form of forced sex, unwanted touching of sexual organs, and the use of sexually insulting language among others(Cooper, Clements & Holt, 2012). However, sexual bullying is directed at girls and in most cases,male students tend to intimidate their female counterparts.

According to the findings of a research carried out by the BBC Panorama on a sample of 270 youths aged between 11-19 years, 28 of the respondents admitted that they has at least one sexual bullying encounterin their lives (Whitted & Dupper, 2005). Thirtystudentsfrom the sample had witnessed sexual bullying being done on another person. Among the sample, 40 students had experienced unwanted touching of their sexual organs. In urban schools, it has been noted that children are forced to provide sexual favor in exchange for protection from illegal gangs(Smith & Brain, 2000).

Self defense

A good number of people opt to defend themselves whenever they face any traumatizing situation that is caused by a person he or she sees on a daily basis. Naturally, the victim feels discontented by the evil deed that was done to him or her by that particular person. As a result, he or she opts to turn violent to the person who caused the offense. Violence results from the need by victims of bullying to revenge for injury caused on them. Revenge usually results in the use of guns and other dangerous weapons, and in the process, death may occur (Smith & Brain, 2000). Students tend to resort to acts of violence in attempts to defend themselves. However, school shootings are not common, but they account for at least 1% of violent crimes in schools (King, 2014). For instance, a shocking case involving gun shooting occurred in Sandy Hook Elementary School in the year 2012 where 26 students and employees were shot dead.

Carrying of weapons

A few cases of students carrying weapons to school have been reported (Berezina & Bovina, 2013). According to a report tabled by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2008, about6% of students carried with them some weapons to school (CDC, 2013). The commonly carried weapons include knives. The report says that the intention is to defend individuals or revenge for acts done on them by other students. Male students were reported as the most susceptible to possessing these weapons in school as compared with their female counterparts.

The findings of the study further revealed that 7.8% of students in high school had an experience of injury inflicted on them with a weapon or had been threatened by a weapon within a period of 12 months when the study was going on (CDC, 2013). 12.4% of students engaged in fights within the school compound and no action was taken against them (CDC, 2013). 5.5% of the students sampled skipped classes in fear of being bullied and they opted to remain at home (CDC, 2013). This realization is a clear indicator that bullying continues even after the passing of laws barring it.

Bullying does not only target students,but alsoit can also be directed to teachers and other staff members. The US statistics show that 7% of bullying cases were directed to teachers in 2003 whereby students would threaten or inflict injury to a teacher (Kimmel & Mahler, 2003). The report also showed that students physically tortured 5% of teachers in urban schools (Cooper, Clements, & Holt, 2012). Other bullying cases involving other staff were also reported with bus drivers being more vulnerable as compared to other staff members.

The U.S laws against bullying

In a bid to contain bullying in schools, the United States has imposed laws defining what comprises bullying and the punishments for such actions(King, 2014). In some states, laws authorize the schools’ authorities to punish students found harassing other students. By the end of 2013, all states in the US had adopted laws illegalizing bullying in schools(Perius et al., 2014).

Schools are also required to keep records of all cases involving bullying. There is also a necessity for every academic institution in the US to make use of an anti-bullying expert. Despite the laws being in place, the process of implementing them is delayed by lack of funds(Berezina & Bovina, 2013). Funds allocated to education in the US are not enough to implement the anti-bullying strategies, since the process requires large amounts of money to implement. Victims and their families in the US have the right to seek justice in law courts by instituting a case against either the school or the management for failure to protect their children(Nansel et al., 2003). In severe cases such as those involving shooting, the complainant may sue the school and the shooter’s family jointly(King, 2014).

Violence

Research has linked Bullying to violence in schools and it has indicated that a majority of students who undergo harassment in schools or in any stage during their development result in undesirable behavior in adulthood(Baldry, 2003). On, research indicates that major killers in the world had a bully experience either in their childhood or in adulthood(Perius et al., 2014). Bullying does not only have negative effects on the affected, but it can also affect the victim’s life positively (Nansel et al., 2003).

Some scholars have argued that bullying can have positive results on the victim by instill confidence. According to Helene Guldberg, an expert in childhood development, bullying gives students knowledge on how to contain disputes and trains them to be responsible (Perius et al., 2014). She argues that teachers should not intervene in resolving disputes arising out of bullying; instead, students should be left to resolve their disputes. The US reported 31 deaths in school resulting from violence between the year July 2010 and June 2011 (Perius et al., 2014). Among the 31 deaths, 6 occurred because of students committing suicide while the rest were because of assault (Perius et al., 2014).

Cycle of Violence

The view that most people, who were bullied at some stage in school, will tend to revenge by harassing other students compounds bullying (King, 2014). In an educational setting, the majority of students who are victims of bullying are often new students (Nansel et al., 2003). The old students bully new students and the new students will later on bully other incoming students when the old students leave the institution. Therefore, the bullying cycle continues and breaking it becomes a complex undertaking.

Causes of bullying and violence in schools

Research on causes of bullying in schools have indicated that long exposure to gun fights, domestic violence, physical assault, and other forms of punishments at home predisposes a child to violent behaviors (Smith & Brain, 2000). In addition, some programs aired over the local television channels are known to increase the students’ aggressiveness.

Desire to fit in a certain group

Students result in bullying due to influence from other students who practice it. The desire to fit into a certain class or group may drive a student into engaging in violent behaviors in order to please the group members. Socially inactive students find difficulty in making friends, and thus they are highly susceptible to bullying by other students (Berezina & Bovina, 2013).

Neighborhood environment

Neighborhoods and communities present the framework for school brutality (Kimmel & Mahler, 2003). In communities where crime is high, bullying will tend to be high. In addition, the location of the school determines thestudents’ aggressiveness. A school located in high-crime or drug-ridden neighborhoods will record high cases of bullying as such environments contribute to the vice. Teacher bullying is high in schools located in high crime neighborhoods. Well-controlled longitudinal research on the effect of environmenton a child’s behavior indicates that exposure to violence in childhood instills aggressive behaviors in a child, who is likely to engage in violence acts in adulthood (Cooper, Clements, & Holt,2012).

In another controlled longitudinal research, it was observed that experienceof gun brutality in early adolescence provides incentives to the teens to commit acts of solemn violence later on in life (Perius et al., 2014). Neighborhood vigilant groups are also said to instill aggression behaviors to students as well. Gangs are said to recruit students to such groups,thus propagating undesirable behaviors.

Role of School nurses in the fight against bullying

School nurses are involvedactively in reducing violence in schools. Nurses are credited for their role of creating awareness on the effects of violence on students and promoting evidence-based education (Blosnich & Bossarte, 2011). Nurses are placed strategically to prevent violence as they interact with individual students who visit school clinics for treatment. Through this interaction, nurses are in a position to get the root cause of astudent’s behavior and offer counseling services accordingly.

This interaction helps nurses to know more about other students, and thus the nurse can intervene and prevent an act of violence before it happens (Baldry, 2003). The relationship between nurses and students is healthy since nurses do not hold any disciplinary positions, and thus students feel secure while narrating their problems to the nurse as opposed to any other person (Berezina & Bovina, 2013). Nurses are also in a good position to detect a child affected by torture or other forms of bully since such a student will frequently visit the clinic for treatment and assistance. In such cases, the nurse may launch investigations to help such a student.

Nurses are members of interdisciplinary committee and they are in a position to detect students with discipline and behavior issues and counsel appropriately. Through the medical expertise possessed by nurses, they are in a position to detect students with undesirable behaviors and take appropriate actions before in time. This way, a nurse prevents students from engaging in violent acts. However, nurses are faced with diverse challenges in their role of combating violence in schools.

Some of the challenges that they face is the lack of sufficient nurses, and thus they do not have enough time to interact with every student. Given the active role played by nurses in combating violent acts in schools, every school should have a nurse. The nurse should be involved in the formulation of crisis management policies (Baldry, 2003).

Conclusion

Bullying in schools has been on the rise in the past few decades. The majority of students who experience bullying at some stage in life resort to undesirable behaviors and they may feel intimidated. There are various forms of bullying experienced in schools. However physical and oral bullying are the most common forms of bullying in the contemporary learning institutions. In many states in the US, certain legislatures are in place to protect the rights of students. The laws allow the school authorities to punish students found bullying others.

Incidences involving use of weapons in bullying are reported in the US albeit in isolated cases. Bullying is the cause of violent behaviors amongst students. Nurses can play a great role in combating this violence since they are in good relation with students, and thus students are ready to disclose information to them without fear of victimization. They also offer professional counseling to students, which is necessary for change of behavior. Students’ behavior is highly determined by the environment of residence. If the school is located in a crime zone, bullying will be a common phenomenon.

References

Adams, C. (2014). .

Baldry, A. (2003). Bullying in schools and exposure to domestic violence. Child abuse & neglect, 27(7), 713-732.

Berezina, E., & Bovina, B. (2013). Violence at school: socio-psychological explanations and recommendations. Psychological Science and Education, 6, 37-49.

Blosnich, J., & Bossarte, R. (2011). Low-level violence in schools: Is there an association between school safety measures and peer victimization? Journal of School Health, 81(2), 107-13.

CDC: School violence: Data and statistics. (2013).

Cooper, G., Clements, P., & Holt, K. (2012). Examining childhood bullying and adolescent suicide: Implications for school nurses. The Journal of School Nursing, 28(4), 275-283.

Kimmel, M.,& Mahler, M. (2003). Adolescent masculinity, homophobia, and violence random school shootings, 1982-2001. American behavioral scientist, 46(10), 1439-1458.

King, K. (2014). Violence in the School Setting: A School Nurse Perspective. Online Journal of Issues in Nursing, 18(4), 1-13.

Nansel, T., Overpeck, D., Haynie, L., Ruan, J., & Scheidt, P. (2003). Relationships between bullying and violence among US youth. Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, 157(4), 348-353.

Perius, G., Brooks-Russell, A., Jing, W., & Iannotti, R. (2014). Trends in Bullying, Physical Fighting, and Weapon Carrying Among 6th- Through 10th-Grade Students from 1998 to 2010: Findings from a National Study. American Journal of Public Health, 104(6), 1100-1106.

Smith, P., & Brain, P. (2000). Bullying in schools: Lessons from two decades of research. Aggressive behavior, 26(1), 1-9.

Spriggs, A., Iannotti, J., Nansel, R., & Haynie, D. (2007). Adolescent bullying involvement and perceived family, peer, and school relations: Commonalities and differences across race/ethnicity. Journal of Adolescent Health, 41(3), 283-293.

Whitted, S., & Dupper, D. (2005).Best practices for preventing or reducing bullying in schools. Children & Schools, 27(3), 167-175.

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