Discuss the nature, causes and consequences of bullying in schools.
Aggression is an intentional behaviour that causes or threatens to harm another or others and its’ key element is intent. There are numerous different theories of aggression, which include developmental continuity (Loeber & Loeber, 1998), the theory applied by Lorenz (1969) which states that aggression is instinctive, the discharge model by Paul Kenyon and one of the most widely known, the Social Learning Theory of Albert Bandura (1973). All of the above theories can be applied to aggression and they contribute different concepts and intervention philosophies. ‘A student is being bullied or victimised when he or she is exposed repeatedly over time to negative action on the part of one or more other students.’ (Olweus, D., 1993, pg. 9). It is necessary to distinguish between direct and indirect bullying. Direct bullying is when a person more or less opens attack on another child. Indirect is when a child will deliberately isolate or exclude another child from areas such as social groups or games. As indirect bullying is less visible due to it being less physical, it is very important that it is not ignored. One half of all violence against teenagers occurs in schools (NIDR, 1999, as cited in Weinhold & Weinhold, 2000) and it is thought that 80 to 90 percent of adolescents report some form of victimisation from a bully at school (Espelage, 1999, as cited in Weinhold & Weinhold, 2000).
For a child to bully another, four criteria must be fulfilled. The child must have the intention to harm the victim. The behaviour can take place in physical (hitting, kicking) psychological (social exclusion, isolation) or verbal (name calling, threatening) forms. It must be a repeated action occurring over time. Much conflict between children is normal and is essential to their development of their coping strategies and learning experiences. It must also involve a real or perceived imbalance of power (physical or psychological) between the victim and the bully.
To understand bullying more extensively in our schools, we should know what actually characterises a typical bully and victim. An obvious feature of bullies is their aggression towards other peers. They generally have a more positive attitude to the use of violence in solving conflicts, are impulsive and have a strong need for dominance or control. Throughout the work Olweus has completed in relation to bullying in schools, he has placed a large emphasis on the attribute that male bullies are always more physically stronger than their victims. Olweus tested bullies throughout his studies by use of stress hormones and/or personality measurements. He found no evidence to support the idea that insecurity and anxiety are a shared trait between the bullies in our society, despite the common notion. He made a distinction between different types of bullies, passive, henchmen and followers. Passive bullies are usually a group of mixed individuals such as insecure and anxious students (Olweus, D., 1993). Generally, there are three motives of bullies. Overall, they can be described as having an aggressive reaction pattern. Firstly, they usually have a strong need for power, and enjoy being in control of their peers. Next, they have usually developed a degree of hostility towards their environment, which often stems from their upbringing. This hostility may make them ‘derive satisfaction from inflicting injury and suffering upon other individuals’ (Olweus, D., 1993, pg. 35). Finally, there is normally a benefit component toward their behaviour such as taking things of value from their victims like money, cigarettes or beer. Bandura (1973, as cited in Olweus, D., 1993) also gives the suggestion that their aggressive behaviour is rewarded with prestige from their peers. As bullying can be seen in an anti-social and conduct disorder fashion then one may also predict that students who are aggressive bullies have an increased risk of engaging in criminal behaviour and alcohol or drug abuse. In follow up studies performed by Olweus, results indicate that 30-40% of individuals who were characterised as bullies had three or more convictions by the age of 24 compared to 10% of that in the control group.