Bullying in US Schools
Recent events in the United States have thrown the state, and safety, of Middle and High Schools into sharp relief. Incidents of violence seem to be more and more frequent in our schools. Columbine is of course the most memorable of these media sensations to be witnessed by the public, but there have certainly been others over the past decade. This has inspired a great many investigations into bullies,' their methods, and the effects on their victims. One study defined bullies as "youngsters who repeatedly use negative actions, such as physical or verbal aggression, against victims." (I. Pellegrini & Bartini M, 1999) What follows is an examination of some of these studies, and a pooling of their research and conclusions. It is the hope of many researchers, including this amateur, that a better understanding of bullying and it's causes can help to prevent some of the violent events of past years. Reasons
There may be as many reasons for one child to bully another as there are bullies, but a review of several studies has found certain common themes, and many shared attributes between various bullies and various victims. The first and most easily understandable cause of bullying can be linked to the age of the subjects in question. The teenage years are difficult ones for most teens, partly due to biological reasons. Hormonal instabilities, initiated by the body to ready it for procreation, tend to play havoc with a teen's emotions. The overly reactionary teen who declares his or her parent is ruining his life' has become a stereotype over the years. Most of us can remember intoning those very words to our parents, and being very sincere at the time. Time and perspective helps us place incidents experienced during the teen years in a more realistic light, but often teens are incapable of this. They are children playing at being adults, but they lack the experience to view their lives in an even-tempered and reasonable way.
So we have children who are emotionally unstable to begin with. On to this, we add a host of factors that studies have found to be influences in teen interaction with their peers. For example, social standing has been shown to be a relevant factor. Students sometimes use aggression, or even violence, to assert leadership and thereby gain the attention, admiration, and/or cooperation of other students (I. Pellegrini & Bartini M, 1999). Bullies also tend to affiliate themselves with one another due to their common interests (unpleasant as they might sound) and a shared positive attitude towards bullying (I. Pellegrini & Bartini M, 1999). It would certainly be foreseeable that a student might take up bullying to become friends with the bullies, thereby protecting themselves from their new social group. This, of course, only serves to perpetuate the problem.
Another study examined the effects of violence, both witnessed and practiced, outside of school, and it's effects on a student's tendency to bully. It is generally accepted that exposure to violence in the home and the neighborhood can lead to emotional distress in children . Past researchers have found that children who experience violence in the community are at risk for the development of distress-related symptoms, disruptive behavior problems, and PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) (III. Schwartz & Proctor, 2000). This study hoped to learn if this exposure could translate into aggressive behavior towards other students while in school. The researchers did in fact find a positive correlation between students who self-reported violence exposure and the students who were nominated by their peers as demonstrating aggressive behavior (they were the same students). It is worth noting, of course, that community violence is influenced by societal factors, and that this study specifically targeted inner-city and poverty stricken school districts. Violence is statistically more common in such areas than...
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