Academic journal article International Journal of Clinical and Health Psychology

Victimization, Loneliness, Overt and Relational Violence at the School from a Gender Perspective

Academic journal article International Journal of Clinical and Health Psychology

Victimization, Loneliness, Overt and Relational Violence at the School from a Gender Perspective

Article excerpt

The term school violence refers to different types of adolescent behaviour at school: violence towards classmates, violence towards adults, damage to property, vandalism and bullying (Ortega-Ruiz, 2010). This study focuses on violence towards peers at school, that is to say, violence which involves the victimization of a student or group of students by another student or group. Victimization in school is defined as the experience of being subjected to physical, verbal and psychological violent behaviour by peers in the school context, particularly in spaces with little supervision from adults (Graham, 2006). School violence involves both overt violent behaviour in the form of hitting, insults or name calling, and relational violent behaviour through social exclusion, the spreading of rumours or the exclusion of victims from a group (Buelga, Musitu, & Murgui, 2009; Little, Henrich, Jones, & Hawley, 2003).

The aggressor-victim dynamic is composed of an interpersonal relationship model with serious consequences for the psychosocial adjustment of victims (Guterman, Hahn, & Cameron, 2002). Numerous studies in the scientific literature show a strong relationship between victimization by peers and internalising problems such as strong feelings of loneliness, low self-esteem and high symptoms of depression (Hawker & Boulton, 2000), but very few studies have viewed victimization as a risk factor relating to externalising behaviour such as, for example, school violence.

Recent research has transferred the explanatory model developed by Emler and Reicher (2005) on the relationship between victimization and youth criminal and antisocial behaviour (Estévez, Jiménez, Moreno, & Musitu, 2013) to the school context. According to the results of this study, adolescent victims of violence at school trust adults in authority to protect them. However, the law of silence which prevails among students as regards school violence means that often adults do not detect victims and are unable to offer them suitable protection (Cava, 2011). This can lead to the adolescents being disappointed by these adults, and also distrusting the social norms and having a heightened perception of their loneliness (Estévez, Jiménez, & Moreno, 2011). Following the theory put forward by Emler and Reicher (2005), adolescents may try to use self-protection strategies such as seeking a reputation at school based on the transmission of a social image that is non-conformist, rebellious or anti-social, that is to say, a non-conformist social reputation. In order for this strategy to be efficient, adolescents often disobey social coexistence norms at school or become involved in overt and relational violent behaviour. This conduct towards their peers aimed at transmitting a message about themselves: I am also violent and I do not wish to be victimized.

In order to prevent this type of behaviour at school it is important to take the adolescents' perception of the classroom environment into consideration. Adolescent perception of a positive climate in the classroom, that is, one in which they are involved in the activities and tasks proposed in the classroom, perceive classmates as friends and have a positive perception of the teacher as an adult they can count on for reference and for help, is a key factor for the social adjustment of adolescents, prevents school violence and is an important source for the construction of their identity (Estévez & Emler, 2011; Wentzel, 2010). Conversely, adolescents victimized at school show a negative perception of the social climate in the classroom, feel unsatisfied with their life at school and feel less attached to school (Martínez, Povedano, Amador, & Moreno, 2012).

Another important aspect of the research on violence and school victimization is the gender of the adolescents. Scientific literature shows that boys are more overtly violent and suffer more overt victimization at school than girls (Card, Stucky, Sawalani, & Little, 2008). …

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