School Violence in Context: Culture, Neighborhood, Family, School, and Gender

By Rami Benbenishty; Ron Avi Astor | Go to book overview

Chapter 8
The Influence of Within-School Context
on the Subjective Experience of Victimization:
Safety, Violence as a Problem, and School
Nonattendence Due to Fear

In the first chapters we looked at various aspects and types of victimization and examined their distribution and structure. However, we did not look at how variables within schools impact different forms of victimization. A viable theory of school victimization needs to explain how specific aspects of the school environment, either working alone or in concert, impact different types of victimization. An empirical understanding of how the school environment and victimization experiences impact students’ feelings related to their school’s safety is also critical. These issues lead to an entirely different set of questions that go beyond victimization prevalence rates and demographics. By their nature, these kinds of queries involve more sophisticated multivariate analyses that explore the patterns of relationships between school-based variables. Variables such as school climate, policy, rules, and staff’s responses to violence may contribute to student victimization and subsequent feelings or interpretations that impact the experience of school in profound ways.

Hence, we believe it is important to explore how student-perceived school variables impact different forms of school victimization. How do the school climate, teacher support, school rules and policy, risky peer groups, and other school dynamics impact victimization? How do these context variables, combined with students’ experience of personal victimization, impact students’ feelings of personal safety, their assessment of the violence problem in their school as a whole, and their nonattendance due to fear? These more subjective variables go beyond victimization because they involve how students interpret experiences of the school environment and personal victimization. Clearly, there are many questions researchers could ask about students’ subjective views of their school’s safety. For example, in any given month, a sizable proportion of students miss school due to fear; currently, though, we do not know what relationships exist between school climate variables, student victimization, and school nonattendance. Likewise, we do not know which school variables

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