Schools Embedded in Larger Contexts:
The Matryoshka Doll Theory
of School Violence
Now we come full circle. In Chapter 1 we presented our heuristic model of school violence that served as the road map for this book. Then we explored types of victimization, their patterns, and how within-school variables relate to specific types of victimization. We presented findings showing that students and schools have wide variations in levels of violence. However, within-school variables do not explain all of the variation in school victimization. As depicted in our heuristic model, school settings are embedded in much larger, nested contexts that may impact the kinds of victimization present on school grounds.
According to our theoretical model, victimization in school is the product of many factors that are associated with multiple levels organized hierarchically (nested like a matryoshka doll): individual students within classes, classes within schools, schools within neighborhoods, and neighborhoods within societies and cultures. We therefore propose to view victimization in school as influenced by several nested contexts simultaneously. A similar view was expressed by Welsh, Greene, and Jenkins (1999), who argue that research and intervention efforts have too often been piecemeal, examining specific variables and levels of analysis in isolation from one another. Furthermore, they argue, these past studies have focused on one level of analysis: either determining who are the more violent students or which are the more violent schools.
An effective way of responding to this justified concern is provided by Duncan and Raudenbush (1999). They suggest using multilevel approaches to examine the differential effects of student, school, and neighborhood characteristics. Lee (2000) presents examples of how a multilevel approach can identify school context effects (e.g., school size) on learning. This type of analysis can detect not only the effects of school context variables but also how context interacts with studentlevel variables. For instance, school size may have different effects on male and on female students.