Academic journal article School Psychology Review

Measuring and Changing a "Culture of Bullying"

Academic journal article School Psychology Review

Measuring and Changing a "Culture of Bullying"

Article excerpt

The literature indicates that an essential element of effective prevention and early intervention is the measurement of bullying through surveys. Although the scientific community continues to struggle with the most accurate and efficient method for assessing the prevalence of bullying (Furlong, Sharkey, Felix, Tanigawa, & Greif-Green, in press), the article by Bandyopadhyay, Cornell, and Konald (2009) highlights a critical but often overlooked aspect of assessment--the broader culture and climate of bullying. Through two large-scale studies, the authors provide evidence that the School Climate Bullying Survey has adequate psychometric properties and is thus a potentially useful measure of the bullying climate within a school. The studies by Bandyopadhyay et al. also raise a number of important issues for researchers, school psychologists, and prevention scientists concerned about the issue of bullying and its effect on the school context. In this commentary, we build on the work by Bandyopadhyay et al. and identify some areas for further research related to the "culture of bullying" (Un-never & Cornell, 2003). We also consider some implications of this work for researchers and practitioners aiming to prevent bullying and promote a positive school climate for all students.

Measurement of Bullying and School Climate

Two interrelated issues have plagued bullying researchers, and consequently the effectiveness of prevention and intervention efforts: the measurement and definition of bullying. Despite the availability and widespread use of various measures of bullying, there is limited research on the psychometric properties of most self-report measures (Furlong et al., in press). Yet most school-wide prevention models, like the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program, encourage the use of self-report surveys of bullying and related factors to guide data-based decision making. Furthermore, several states have developed policies related to the prevention of bullying that include some type of regular assessment or "surveillance" of bullying (Srabstein, Berkman, & Pyntikova, 2008). This is one reason why the study by Bandyopadhyay et al. (2009) is so timely, as the findings suggest that the School Climate Bullying Survey (SCBS) would be useful for assessing the prevalence of bullying, along with the broader issues of students' aggressive attitudes and their willingness to seek help.

With regard to the definition of bullying, a common concern is whether all core features of the definition of bullying (i.e., repeated, intentional, and power difference) are addressed (Olweus, 1993). As in many studies of bullying and peer victimization, Bandyopadhyay et al. (2009) provided a definition of bullying on the survey. The definitions of bullying typically vary slightly from measure to measure, and most fall short in some aspect of Olweus' definition--usually the power differential (Furlong et al., in press; Nansel & Over-peck, 2003). Bandyopadhyay et al. were careful, however, in selecting a definition that specified this particular aspect of bullying. Nevertheless, the provision of a definition does not ensure that the participants are consistently applying it. Furthermore, schema theory (Kunda, 1999) suggests that the terms bully and bullying may mean different things to different people, which in turn can influence the pattern of responses on measures of bullying.

A number of factors may influence one's perception of the term bullying. For example, there is some evidence of potential ethnic differences in the interpretation of the word bullying. One study found that African American youth who were frequently victimized by peers were less likely than their White peers to report that they had been "bullied" (Sawyer, Bradshaw, & O'Brennan, 2008). In fact, the African American students in this study were more likely than their White peers to report that they had been victimized when assessed using specific individual examples of bullying behavior. …

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