The Experience of Bullying Among Secondary School Students

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Psychology in the Schools, Vol. 47(4), 2010 Published online in Wiley InterScience (www.interscience.wiley.com)

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2010 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. DOI: 10.1002/pits.20473

THE EXPERIENCE OF BULLYING AMONG SECONDARY SCHOOL STUDENTS
CHRISTINA ATHANASIADES AND VASSILIKI DELIYANNI-KOUIMTZIS

School of Psychology, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki The present study was designed to qualitatively investigate secondary students’ interpretations and experiences of bullying (and victimization) in Greek schools, with a focus on gender similarities and differences. Overall, 95 students (50 boys and 45 girls), 15 or 16 years old, participated in focus group interviews that were homogeneous in terms of grade and gender. Data analysis, using the interpretative phenomenological approach, showed that different interpretations and meanings of bullying between genders have important consequences on actual behavior. Furthermore, students do not reveal bullying and victimization to either parents or teachers, who are described as indifferent and ineffective. Results are indicative of a school culture that is conducive to bullying behaviors and have important implications for antibullying interventions. C 2010 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

A common definition of bullying among researchers involves aggression, intention, repetition, and an imbalance of power between the aggressor and the victim (Olweus, 1993; Rigby, 2002; Smith, 2000). Bullying may be direct, verbal, and indirect or relational, such as gossiping, spreading rumors, and social exclusion (Owens, Shute & Slee, 2000; Smith, 2000, 2004). Apart from violating the rights of children to have a safe school climate, bullying has many long-term and devastating effects on both bullies and victims (Espalage & Swearer, 2003; Ma, Stewin, & Mah, 2001; Olweus, 1993). Victims often respond with avoidance behaviors, a decline in academic performance, a loss of self-esteem, and, in extreme cases, with suicide or killing bullies. In contrast, bullies carry their social problems into adulthood and are likely to engage more in criminal activities or abuse their spouse and children. The high prevalence of school bullying in many European and other western countries (Carney & Merrell, 2001; Menesini et al., 1997; Smith & Brain, 2000; Smith, Cowie, Olafsson & Liefooghe, 2002) in relation with the modest effectiveness of most antibullying programs (Rigby, 2004) emphasizes the need for more effective research strategies, theoretical interpretations, and interventions regarding bullying. According to Rigby (2004), different perspectives on the causes of bullying have different implications regarding intervention strategies. For example, theorizing bullying as the outcome of individual differences directs our attention to either those students who are likely to become aggressive or to students who are likely to be more vulnerable than others. Working with these students involves usually disciplinary methods, behavior modification, and counseling. In contrast, a sociocultural approach to bullying, which relates bullying with the construction of gender or ethnic identity and with power differentials, focuses on the ways that school curriculum in general can influence students to accept and respect differences among them. Relevant research has shown a trend toward gender differences in preferred forms of aggression, with boys being generally more aggressive than girls and girls being predominately more indirectly aggressive than boys, especially during adolescence (Bjorkqvist, Lagerspetz & Kaukiainen, 1992; Crick & Grotpeter, 1995; Salmivalli & Kaukiainen, 2004; Smith et al., 2002; Whitney & Smith, 1993). Furthermore, researchers found that boys were more frequently designated, through self and peer evaluations, as bullies than were girls and that boys more often participated in bullying

This project was cofunded by the European Union–European Social Fund and National Resources (EPEAEKII). Official...
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