Bullying in Schools: A Form of Child Abuse in Schools

Article excerpt

Child abuse is largely recognized as a significant issue within the school system and the larger society. In the schools, incidents of child abuse can take any of physical, sexual and psychological forms. This paper would restrict itself to bullying, by more specifically providing a clearer understanding of the concept of bullying, its prevalence, and effects on the victims' well- being. In addition, intervention for the reduction of incidence of child abuse in the system is provided.

Educational scientists and their social science counterparts in Nigeria have tended to restrict the whole idea of child abuse to child labor, street hawking, child trafficking, early girl- child marriage, etc, which take place outside the school; thus, placing little or no attention to the growing incidents of child abuse within the school. Within the school, incidents of child abuse have persisted, even though most of the time they are either denied or under- reported (Aluede, 2004; Astor & Meyer, 2001; Benhenishty, Zeira & Astor, 2002). Within the school system, incidents of child abuse may take any of sexual, psychological or physical forms.

In this paper, we would be interested in one of those aspects of child abuse that take place in the school system, which is bullying. Bullying has always been a problem in schools. It is more recently becoming a bigger crisis with vicious consequences. Bullying is not just a child's play, but a terrifying experience many school children face everyday (Craig, 1998; Garrett, 2003). Bullying is now recognized as a significant problem in many schools around the world (Nicolaides, Toda, & Smith, 2002). Although, school officials, teachers, parents, and students are exerting great efforts to make schools friendlier and safer places, a reduction in bullying is not always evident (Beran, 2005). To that end, the thrust of this paper is to provide information relative to the definition of bullying, the prevalence of bullying, and the effects of bullying on school children; and suggest counseling advocacies for reducing incidents of bullying.

Definition of Bullying

Defining bullying has been very nebulous, as no single definition covers all aspects of bullying. Even though no single definition may cover all the aspects of bullying, it has been called willful, conscious desire to hurt another or put him/ her under stress. This stress is created not only by what actually happens but also by fear of what might happen. However, bullying is not the same as harassment or assault. It tends to involve many incidents that accumulate over time, rather than a single incident or a few of them (Anonymous, 2003). Bullying can also be as direct as teasing, hitting or threatening, or as indirect as exclusions, rumors or manipulations (Garrett, 2003).

According to Beran (2005), much of what we understand today about bullying is a result of Dan Olweus' work beginning in the 1970s in Scandinavia. Although his definition of bullying has been debated, the vast majority of the published studies use the Bully/Victim Survey, developed by Olweus as a measure of bullying (Bedell & Home, 2005; Beran, 2005). Dan Olweus, a pioneer in the systematic study of bullying, identifies common elements of this behaviour, such as deliberate aggressiveness and marked inequality in terms of power. Tactics employed in this act include harsh teasing, constant criticisms, insults, gossips and unreasonable demands (Anonymous, 2003)

Bullying occurs when one or more children repeatedly hurt another child through words or actions. Bullying may involve direct physical actions such as hitting or shoving, verbal assaults, such as teasing, name-calling, or it may involve more indirect action such as socially isolating a child or manipulating friendship (Limber, 1996, as cited in Fried, 1997).

Orpinas and Horne (cited in Bedeii & Home, 2005) differentiate between violence, aggression, and bullying though the concepts are frequently used interchangeably. …