Feeling at Home in One's School: A First Look at a New Measure

By Cartland, Jenifer; Ruch-Ross, Holly S. et al. | Adolescence, Summer 2003 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Feeling at Home in One's School: A First Look at a New Measure


Cartland, Jenifer, Ruch-Ross, Holly S., Henry, David B., Adolescence


In light of recent events involving extreme violence in schools, commentators have drawn the conclusion that there is a strong connection between being bullied, social isolation, and lashing out violently towards peers (Nansel, Overpeck, Pilla, Ruan, Simons-Morton, & Scheidt, 2001; Spivak & Prothrow-Stith, 2001). They contend that teasing, bullying, and "picking on" individuals facilitates increasingly greater social isolation, which may for some students lead to extremely violent acts against peers.

This "diagnosis" of school violence leads to questions about school environment. Do some school environments aggravate social isolation more than others? Given that every school has its share of socially isolated youth and bullies, are some school environments more likely to aggravate the social isolation so that the outcast individual strikes out? Alternatively, do some school environments diffuse social isolation so that individuals are less likely to strike out and more likely to find help at critical moments?

There is little scholarship comparing school cultures in this light. Social scientists have explored the role of peers in the emergence of social isolation (Tani, Chavez, & Deffenbacher, 2001; Cotterell, 1996), as well as behaviors associated with social isolation (Mason & Windle, 2001). Even so, many of these studies view social isolation from the perspective of the isolated individual, rather than from the perspective of the isolating group. Lashbrook (2000) points out that the literature on peer pressure consistently presupposes the passivity of the individual, rather than viewing him or her as part of a group that creates an environment for other individuals to experience. The reciprocity between members and groups is explored in some studies examining the psychological sense of community (e.g., Brodsky, O'Connor, O'Campo & Aronson, 1999), but the focus has been restricted to adults, and findings may not generalize to adolescents in schools.

Promising theoretical insights are offered by research dealing with dissent and difference among adolescents. For example, D'Augelli and Patterson (2001) point to not only the social isolation of gay youth, but also the strong intolerance from their peers. This intolerance was expressed in a range of actions targeted at the gay youth, from pressure to conform to bullying, and from taunting to property damage. Back (1996) explores the complexities of racism and tolerance among urban youth, suggesting that the limits of tolerance vary considerably by community. Even among majority-race adolescents who reject "racism," the tolerance displayed may vary in depth and may not extend to more than one minority group.

These two studies suggest that adolescents who may feel socially isolated (because they are gay or of a minority race), upon entering their school, confront environments that are forgiving and inclusive, environments that are unforgiving and exclusive, or environments that are somewhere in between the two extremes. For adolescents, the quality of the school culture in terms of forgiveness and inclusiveness could define the extent of "social capital" they find at school--the number and quality of social resources to which the individual can turn when a problem arises.

Thus, perhaps one key to diffusing social isolation is a "hospitable" school environment, one in which students feel at home even if they feel different from others or awkward. In this vein, Cotterell (1996) calls for the development of "supportive school environments," in which administrators build a sense of community in the school by extending adult- and peer-support networks as a means of preventing or diffusing social isolation. We hypothesize that, for adolescents, a key component of social capital in the school is the level of hospitality in the school environment.

Examining social capital within the school by exploring perceptions of hospitality is at odds with the substantial literature on social capital and psychological sense of community for adults.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Feeling at Home in One's School: A First Look at a New Measure
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?