Academic journal article Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD

Assessment of Bullying: A Review of Methods and Instruments

Academic journal article Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD

Assessment of Bullying: A Review of Methods and Instruments

Article excerpt

School violence has become a pervasive problem for our nation. Littleton, Colorado; Jonesboro, Arkansas; West Paducah, Kentucky; Pearl, Mississippi; Edinboro, Pennsylvania; and Springfield, Colorado, were relatively obscure small towns and cities until they became the site of a shocking episode of violence in which children killed children and teachers in school. To shed light on the cause of these incidents, the U.S. Secret Service interviewed 40 boys involved in school shootings and determined that many of these children were humiliated and harassed by peers over long periods of time (Simonvich & White Stack, 2000). Hence, a common thread in many of these episodes of school violence seems to be childhood bullying.

Bullying is a significant, pervasive form of school violence (Batsche, 1997). Olweus (1993), who is considered by many researchers to be the leading expert on peer victimization, offers a general definition of bullying that includes repeated exposure to negative actions by one or more students over time. Olweus (1993) further defined a negative action as a purposeful attempt to injure or inflict discomfort on another, either through words, physical contact, gestures, or exclusion from a group. The portion of the definition that includes harassment conducted repeatedly and over time is designed to exclude occasional negative actions that are not perceived as being serious and may be directed toward one student on one occasion and toward another student on a different occasion. However, in certain circumstances, a single instance of serious victimization may be perceived as bullying (Olweus, 1993).

Three general forms of bullying have been delineated in the literature (Ross, 1996). Olweus (1993) first distinguished between direct and indirect bullying, later describing direct bullying as "relatively open attacks on a victim" (p. 10) and indirect bullying as a "form of social isolation and intentional exclusion from a group" (p. 10). Indirect bullying eventually was referred to in the literature as relational victimization and describes manipulation of relationships or friendships to inflict emotional pain on another, such as a group of peers retaliating against someone by ignoring her or him (Bjorkqvist, Lagerspetz, & Kaukiainen, 1992; Crick & Grotpeter, 1995). Finally, a further distinction was made in the form of a third category, direct verbal aggression, which consists of such behaviors as name-calling, shouting, abusing, and accusing (Bjorkqvist et al., 1992).

Research has identified bullying as being ongoing, unsolicited, and frequently not physically injurious (Hoover, Oliver, &Thomson, 1993; Olweus, 1993). Essentially, bullying is the process of establishing and maintaining social dominance through overt aggression and doing so in ways that victims are unable to deflect because of their lack of skills, their inability to effectively integrate with peers, or their inability to develop subgroups of peers (C. M. J. Arora & Thompson, 1987). Unfortunately, many children are bullied in schools. Estimates vary regarding how many children are bullied, but research has suggested that at least 15% to 20% of all students will experience bullying during their school career (Batsche, 1997). Children who are chronically victimized by bullies may experience such short-term problems as physical and psychological distress, difficulty in concentrating, and school phobia (Bernstein & Watson, 1997) and such long-term problems as an inability to initiate and maintain successful interpersonal relationships with members of the opposite sex (Gilmartin, 1987), higher levels of depression, and having a more negative self-concept than do peers who have not been bullied (Olweus, 1993).

Although the victims of bullies are clearly at risk for short-and long-term maladjustment after incidents of peer victimization, children who bully are also vulnerable to myriad future problems. …

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