Academic journal article Asian Social Science

The Family System as a Socio-Ecological Determinant of Bullying among Urban High School Adolescents in Gweru, Zimbabwe: Implications for Intervention

Academic journal article Asian Social Science

The Family System as a Socio-Ecological Determinant of Bullying among Urban High School Adolescents in Gweru, Zimbabwe: Implications for Intervention

Article excerpt


The study sought to identify family-related socio-ecological determinants of bullying among Gweru urban High school adolescents. A survey design, premised on the qualitative and quantitative paradigms, was used. From the 13 High schools, 2 day-and 2 day-boarding schools were selected using stratified random sampling. Each school had 1 purposively sampled class giving a total of 4 classes comprised of 149 students, from whom 16 bullies were identified. Four class teachers, 1 from each school were consecutively sampled. Bullies responded to questionnaires whereas class teachers had structured interviews. Data was respectively subjected to Spearman's rho correlational computations between determinants and to thematic analysis. Major findings were that the socio-ecological determinants exerted a great influence on bullying, and that they had complex interactions between them. The overall conclusion was that the most influential determinants comprised of malfunctioning family set-ups. Recommendations included that anti-bullying intervention designers could take into cognizance that the identified determinants needed to be addressed, not in their individual capacities, as a change in one is likely to influence a change in others.

Keywords: adolescents, bullying, socio-ecological determinants

1. Introduction

Adolescence is a period of transition from puberty to early adulthood, that is, from about 12 to 21 years (Bonds & Stoker, 2009). According to McNeely and Blanchard (2009), most people regard adolescents as having boundless imagination, rashness, forgetfulness, inconsistency, explosive tempers, extreme vanity and egoism. Because most adolescents are still in school, this makes the school a primary context for their behaviors, and typically the largest and most important socialization institution for them. The authors also refer to world-wide surveys which show the high prevalence of bullying in many schools and its dire consequences, which include suicide, nightmares, carrying of weapons for self-protection and/or retaliation, absenteeism from school and extreme hyper-vigilance. Espelage (2010) gives the various forms of bullying which include physical, verbal, social, cyber, instrumental and inductive bullying.

1.1 Explanations of School Bullying

1) Human Developmental Theories

To explain bullying-related behaviors, it is important to understand how adolescents develop. Adolescence is packed with so much development within a very short time frame and in a rapidly expanding context (Santrock, 2006). The author refers to physical, cognitive, emotional, moral, psychosocial and social development: Physical development is marked by secondary sexual characteristics, which are set offby sexual hormones first produced at puberty. The new body images sometimes cause frustrations, embarrassments and dissatisfaction causing adolescents to display unbecoming ways, including bullying. About cognitive development, Zimbardo (1985) says that adolescents are in Piaget's final stage of formal operations as witnessed by an increased capacity for abstract thought processes. However, there is often poor decision-making and formulation of judgments. Particularly for young adolescents, risk-taking and potentially-rewarding behaviors are common especially in group settings.

According to McNeely and Blanchard (2009), adolescence is full of emotions. Sex hormones affect adolescents' moods and are a source of sensitivity and heightened emotions. Concerns with physical changes may result with inadequate sleep, which can lead to moodiness, gloominess, irritability and over-reacting. For some girls, there are irregular and/or skipping of meals to lose weight. Romantic relationships often result with feelings ranging from elation to abject despair. And, as peers gain in importance over parents, there is occasional rudeness, disagreements, bickering, tensions, rebelliousness, conflicts, anger and back-talking. …

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