Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Education

Forms of Fighting: A Micro-Social Analysis of Bullying and In-School Violence

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Education

Forms of Fighting: A Micro-Social Analysis of Bullying and In-School Violence

Article excerpt

Introduction

We now know that the occurrence of in-school bullying behaviour is the highest among students in Grades 6-8, with physical violence decreasing in frequency as students grow up (Dake, Price, & Telljohann, 2003; Nansel et al., 2001). The use of verbal and psychological torment also tends to continue throughout their high school years (Dake et al., 2003), and can have devastating effects on students' social and emotional development (Gendron, Williams, & Guerra, 2011; Golmaryami et al., 2016; Haynie et al., 2001; Juvonen & Graham, 2014; MacMillan, 2001; Olweus, 1994, 1997, 2013). Bullying behaviour at any point in an individual's childhood or adolescence is linked to higher levels of psychiatric disorders, such as depression, anxiety, antisocial personality disorder, substance use, and suicidal tendencies (Copeland, Wolke, Angold, & Costello, 2013; Takizawa, Maughan, & Arseneault, 2014; Lereya, Copeland, Costello, & Wolke, 2015). Longitudinal studies have found that disorders resulting from bullying behaviour and victimization also tend to continue into adulthood (Bender & Losel, 2011; Copeland et al., 2013; Ouellet-Morin et al., 2013; Sourander, 2010; Wolke, Copeland, Angold, & Costello, 2013). Youth violence is both a pervasive and persistent problem for school-age children.

Existing youth violence literature contains many different definitions of bullying violence (Cascardi, Brown, Iannarone, & Cardona, 2014; Howells, 2006; Modecki, Minchin, Harbaugh, Guerra, & Runions, 2014; Olweus, 2013; Smith, del Barrio, & Tokunaga, 2013). There is a general consensus that bullying behaviour consists of repeated aggressive acts on specific targets who cannot easily defend themselves (Olweus, 2010, 2013). Volke, Dane and Marini (2014) also note that bullying violence is based on three key attributes: goal directed behaviour, a power imbalance, and victim harm. The inclusion of each of these attributes in the definition is supported by theory and strong empirical evidence (Lochman, Whidby, & FitzGerald, 2000; Olweus 2013; Pepler & Craig, 2009; Veenstra, Verlinden, Huitsing, Verhulst, & Tiemeier, 2013; Ybarra, Espelage, & Mitchell, 2014). Bullying violence is also a subset of school violence, which is defined as "student-on-student and student-on-teacher acts of physical harm" (Henry, 2000).

However, much of this research on bullying violence is psychological and quantitative in nature, and does not distinguish between other types of student violence (Bifulco, Schimmenti, Jacobs, Bunn, & Rusu, 2014; Cornell, 2011; Pergolizzi et al., 2009; Sigurdson, Wallander, & Sund, 2014). Quantitative researchers often rely on survey methods that do not clearly distinguish bullying from other types of violence (Collins, 2008, 2009). As a result, bullying violence is often conflated with other forms of aggression (Collins, 2008, 2009). Although these studies are useful for determining the outcomes of peer aggression, they are limited in their ability to explain how students experience and enact different forms of violence at school. These studies infrequently ask participants to describe their violent encounters, and instead relate the number of times they believe they were affected by a given type of violent behaviour through self-report survey methods. This has the effect of not only glossing over the different types of violence that they engage in, but also the social dynamics involved in those different kinds of conflict.

Micro-social qualitative researchers (Burt, Simmons, & Gibbon, 2012; Collins, 2008, 2009, 2013; Cooney, 2009; Klusemann, 2010; Simmons, Rajan, & McMahon, 2012; Weenink, 2014, 2015) note that, in addition to quantitative methods, social sciences researchers could better explain subtle behaviours by incorporating first-person accounts of a situation. By using a micro-social approach to studying youth violence, where researchers actually observe or ask individuals to recall a violent incident, they are better able to describe those types of actions and why they occur (Collins, 2009, 2008; Klusemann, 2010; Weenink, 2014, 2015). …

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