Impact of a varied understanding of school bullying

Date08 January 2018
Published date08 January 2018
AuthorTara Chandler
Subject MatterHealth & social care,Criminology & forensic psychology,Aggression, conflict & peace,Sociology,Gender studies,Gender violence,Political sociology, policy & social change,Social conflicts,War/peace
Impact of a varied understanding
of school bullying
Tara Chandler
Purpose Traditional school bullying is complex and overlapping, hence research suggests there is a varied
definition of the term (Canty et al., 2016). The purpose of this paper is to investigate the potential effects of the
term bullying on adolescent experiences of bullying. Additionally, the study examined bully, victim,
bully-victim, and bystander identity as a moderating factor of experience of the term.
Design/methodology/approach Research appears to seldom offer adolescents the opportunity to
discuss bullying using qualitative methods within naturalistic environments. Therefore, the current study
adopted a phenomenological framework for adolescents to share their experiences. Data comprised
recordings of semi-structured interviews and focus groups with adolescents (n ¼20) in high-school settings.
Findings The current study suppor ted the notion that adolesc ents perceive a varied us e of the term
bullying in schools. The s ample experience a var ied understanding of bul lying in which they expla in:
increases exposure to bullying; impacts social perception of bullying; reduces trust in anti-bullying
intervention; reduces coping self-efficacy amongst victims of bullying; and impacts neg atively
on friendships.
Originality/value Findings suggest a knowledge deficit in transferring information about school bullying
from experts to non-experts. The sample indicated that a varied use of the term bullying has negative impact
on their social and emotional functioning particularly; in managing distress and maintaining relationships.
Additionally, inconsistent understanding of the term was said to increase the frequency of bullying, perception
of bullying, and trust in intervention amongst the sample. Limitations of the research, recommendations for
practice and intervention are briefly discussed.
Keywords Bystander, Victim, Bully, Bully-victim, Social and emotional impact, Traditional school bullying
Paper type Research paper
Olweus (1978) established systematic,psychological research on bullying, sincethen bullying can
be identifiedas a significant, widespreadpublic health problem (Hellströmet al., 2015). The effects
of bullying can be associated with: suicide, suicide ideation and planning (Roh et al.,2015;
Bell et al., 2014); mentalhealth implications (Busch et al.,2015; Lereya et al., 2015); physical health
implications and health risk behaviour (Stuart and Jose, 2014; Azagba, 2016); impact on social
functioning (Feldmanet al., 2014; Hutzell and Payne, 2012)and self-image (Cho and Choi, 2016);
criminality (Decamp and Newby, 2015; Wong and Schonlau, 2013); and impaired cognition
(Ponzo, 2013). Successful anti-bullying intervention suggests schools, communities, and parents
should take a shared and active role in attending anti-bullying workshops,training, and meetings
so that they; understand the definitive features of bullying, collectively enforce rules, and
productivelysupervise behaviour (Olweus,1993). Although state schoolsin the UK are required to
adopt anti-bullying strategies, research suggests that avoidable pitfalls affect the quality of
intervention e.g. some school staff require training to recognise and deal with bullying, and some
schools adopt individual anti-bullying policies (Smith et al., 2012). Using multiple interventions in
single communities can encourage varied perceptions about bullying, reporting, and auditing
bullying behaviour (Thompson and Smith, 2012). Additionally, research also implies that multiple
interventionscan encourage miscommunication, passive and/or zero-toleranceresponses from
adults that could be detrimental to intervention(Smith et al., 2012). Research suggests that there
Received 20 October 2016
Revised 25 January 2017
Accepted 6 March 2017
The author thanks
Dr Sharon Xuereb for her insight,
encouragement and commitment.
Tara Chandleris an Associate
Lecturer at the Departmentof
Education andPsychology,
Universityof Bolton, Bolton, UK.
VOL. 10 NO. 1 2018, pp. 36-45, © Emerald Publishing Limited, ISSN 1759-6599 DOI 10.1108/JACPR-10-2016-0259

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