The Effects of School Climate, Socioeconomics, and Cultural Factors on Student Victimization in Israel

Article excerpt

The study reported in this article is based on a nationally representative sample of 10,400 students in grades 7 through 11 in 162 schools across Israel. The authors used hierarchical linear modeling to examine the differences between Jewish and Arab schools in the relationships between school-level variables--socioeconomic status (SES) of the school's neighborhood and students' families, school size and class size, school level (junior high and high), and school climate--and students' victimization reports (serious physical victimization, threats, moderate physical victimization, and verbal-social victimization). The results show that whereas school climate and school size seem to operate similarly across different cultural contexts, the SES of a school's neighborhood and students' families were associated with victimization for students in Arab schools only. Theoretical implications of these findings for school violence research in other cultures are discussed.

KEY WORDS: community; culture; family; hierarchical linear modeling; Israel; student victimization

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The concept of "risk factors" is widely accepted in the violence and social work research literature; however, few studies have examined whether different within-country ethnic groups have similar risk factors for victimization. Furthermore, most risk factor studies on victimization have not included school variables. Israeli Arab and Jewish schools are embedded in different ethnic, cultural, and economic contexts. In this study, we examined whether the relationships among school, family, and community risk factors for student victimization are similar for Jewish and Arab students. We examined students' reports of school victimization and compared the effects of community, family, and school risk factors between Jewish and Arab schools.

Risk factors are defined as variables that promote or increase the probability of onset, severity, and duration of a problem (Coie et al., 1993). Risk factors may be individual characteristics, family factors, specific life experiences, or contextual factors (Pollard, Hawkins, & Arthur, 1999). The more a child is exposed to multiple risk factors, the more he or she is hkely to engage in violent behavior (Herrenkohl et al., 2000; Saner & Ellickson, 1996). Clearly, there are many types of risk factors embedded in different contexts. Nevertheless, compared with other normative contexts such as the family or the community, most school violence studies and theories have not incorporated risk factors that emerge from the school setting (Astor, Meyer, & Behre, 1999; Baker, 1998). Moreover, studies rarely examine school-based risk factors concurrently with community and family variables in diverse cultural settings. Knowing how the community, family, and school contribute to student victimization in different cultures could enhance theory and practice.

Considerable progress has been made toward identifying risk factors for violent behavior among children and youths. However, very few models explicate the role of the school in relation to the family and the community. For example, Fraser (1996) suggested social environmental conditions that might promote or mitigate aggressive behavior. Social context that provides opportunity for adequate training in cognitive and social skills can reduce children's tendency to use violence to achieve social goals. Variables such as consistent parental supervision, rewards for pro-social behavior, engagement with pro-social peers, and attendance at schools with positive climates are seen as protective and enhancing. Fraser presented several social conditions that might enhance children's use of violence, such as family conditions, processes, experiences that may reinforce children's aggression (such as failure to set limits and coercive style of parent-child interaction), peer rejection, living in poverty, and individual factors such as biological conditions. …

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