This research proposal discusses briefly the
nature of bullying, its nature, causes and effects. Some studies concerning
bullying in middle school will also be cited, aiming to shed light on the
factors that contribute to the phenomenon of bullying, eventually aiding the
researcher in forming the framework for a more in-depth study on the topic.
Bullying among children is a very old
phenomenon. Literary works have described how children get frequently and
constantly attacked by other children, and it stands that there are adults who
have had bullying experiences in their younger years. However, it wasn't until
the `70s that bullying had become the subject of systematic research. Up until
then, studies have been centered in
Scandinavia (Fry, 1997).
Bullying is defined as aggressive behavior,
repeated over time that is intentionally harmful and occurs with no
provocation. It is bullying when the bully enjoys dominating the victim and
the victim feels oppressed. Bullying can be direct, such as teasing, taunting,
calling names, hitting, kicking, stealing, threatening, or using a weapon. It
can also be indirect, such as spreading rumors about someone, ignoring or
excluding others intentionally, or influencing others to do these things
(Harris and Petrie, 2003).
Incidents of bullying have far-reaching
effects. They create fear among the students, not just in the ones being
bullied but in the other students as well. All students are affected, though,
whether they are bullies, victims or observers. 10% of dropout students in
high school claim that the number one reason for not going to school is
because of fear of being harassed or attacked. Similarly, over one-third of
middle school students felt unsafe at school because of bullying and did not
report such behaviors to school personnel because they were scared, lacked the
necessary skills for reporting, and felt that teachers and administrators did
nothing to stop the bullying
There are many reasons why students bully. One
may be because they see it as a way of being popular or of looking tough and
in charge. It may also be in order to get attention or things or to make other
people afraid of them. Still, it may be because they are jealous of the person
they are bullying, or they are being bullied themselves. There are also those
bullies who do not see the wrong in what they are doing and how the person
they are bullying feel (Telecom and New Zealand Police, 2003).
On the other hand, students get bullied for no
particular reason, but
sometimes it is because they are different in
some ways, such as in the color of their skin, the way they talk, their size
or their name. Students also get bullied when they look like they can't defend
Bullying does have detrimental effects to the
student. Bullying can make the students feel lonely or unhappy and frightened.
It makes them feel unsafe and that there is something wrong with them. They
may also lose confidence and may not want to go to school anymore. It may also
make them sick.
Review of Related Literature
Researchers say (Kass, 1999) that as many as
80 percent of middle school students engage in bullying behaviors. They also
point to an increase in such incidents when children move from elementary to
middle schools. Three different studies on bullying were presented at APA's
1999 Annual Convention, held on August 20-24, 1999 in
One study, led by Dorothy Espelage, PhD,
Christine S. Asidao, and Shontelle Vion, of the
Illinois at Urbaba-Champaign
found that: many teens tease their peers just to go along with the crowd but
are uncomfortable with what they do. It was also found that students who are
physically different, that is, in race, body size or clothing are more likely
to be victimized, as well as those who are not as good at things as everybody
else is. Furthermore, the study showed that those who say that they bully
others are being bullied themselves.
This is similar to the findings of a research
conducted by Glencoe/McGraw-Hill (2003), where it was suggested that some
bullies may actually be victims of bullying and that teachers were unlikely to
recognize victim behaviors. The said study also indicated that bullying is
more prevalent than previously believed.
The second study presented in the
aforementioned convention examined the accuracy of teacher, peer and
self-ratings of bullies and victims. This was conducted by Diana L. Paulk,
Susan M. Swearer, PhD, Sam Song and Paulette Tam Cary of the University of
Nebraska-Lincoln. This study showed that about 75 percent of students had been
bullied, victimized or both bullied and victimized during the school year of
1998-1999. It also showed that students, more than teachers, over identified
other students as bully-victims rather than just bullies or just victims.
The third study, conducted by A.D. Pelligrini,
PhD, of the
Minnesota and Maria Bartini of the
Georgia, found that there
is an increase in aggression during early adolescence while youngsters look
for new friendships, but that many aggressive behaviors subside as soon as
peer groups are formed.
Studies conducted by Ma (2002) showed that
gender and physical condition were the most important characteristics of
victims in both Grades 6 and 8. Victims came from schools with poor
disciplinary climate in both grades. Gender was the most important
characteristic of offenders, with affective and physical conditions being
secondary, in both Grades 6 and 8. Offenders, however, varied considerably in
school characteristics. School size was the contextual characteristic that
stood out in both grades, but significant school climate characteristics were
entirely different between the two grades. Schools where students are bullied
less can be characterized as having positive disciplinary climate, strong
parental involvement in Grade 6 and having high academic press in Grade 8.
Statement of the Problem
It is obvious that bullying has a lot of
physical, mental and emotional implications on a child. In our world today
where violence among the youth is becoming more prevalent, it is important to
address this issue and to give it a more thorough investigation.
This particular research will focus on
bullying is not as pervasive in
Portugal as it is in the
U.S., bullying is starting
to become a concern for teachers, and indeed, it is better to put a stop to it
now before the situation gets worse.
This paper's main objective is to study the
factors surrounding the phenomenon of bullying among middle school students.
In particular, this paper aims to answer the following questions: 1. Who are
the students who bully and who are those being bullied? What are their
characteristics, their age, gender and race?; 2. What are the family
backgrounds of the students who bully and those being bullied? 3. How often
does bullying happen? Where does it happen?; 4. What kind of bullying do
students experience?; 5. How do the students feel after bullying or after
being bullied?; 6. Whom do students tell about bullying?
Nature and Significance
Adolescence is defined as the period between
puberty and the end of bodily growth. From this perspective, adolescence is
held to be the time when a child reaches biological maturity (Branwhite,
2000). Rapid physiological change may produce difficulties in psychological
development leading to turbulent behavior. This period may also be a challenge
for parents, requiring them to stretch their tolerance and understanding.
For many young people, middle school is
considered a time of
great risk socially as well as emotionally, a
time when students often need help learning to identify, acknowledge, and
manage their emotions. This period of confusion becomes even more difficult
for the youngster when bullying occurs. Bullying may create destructive
behaviors in the children, behaviors that may become insurmountable barriers
in trying to build positive relationships with their fellow students and with
Indeed, the school plays an important role in
the growth of a child. The National Children's Bureau report, Highlight on
Violence, Disruption and Vandalism in Schools, found that pupils unable to
achieve academic distinction turn to bullying and disruption as a way of
gaining attention and status. In a study conducted in 1978, boys were found to
be four times as likely as girls to be responsible for physical attacks and
also far more likely to be victims of attacks. By intimidating their fellow
students and implanting fear in them, bullies get to drag these students to
their level. Fear causes ineffective learning; thus, the bully gets to pull
the other student down to his own level of mediocrity. Still, some students
try very hard to toughen themselves against physical attacks, that they become
bullies themselves (Phillips, 1994).
Parental care also plays a big part. How a
child is treated and raised determines the kind of person he or she becomes. (Newberger,
2000) In a study on the effects of divorce, researchers discovered that in all
the family groups they studied, crying in boys received less comforting than
in girls. Boys are often discouraged from showing signs of weakness, with
phrases such as Boys don't cry. Boys are often taught to be tough and
to defend themselves. Because there are no models of gentle boys, these
children may find that they receive confusing messages about the way they
Many think that bullying is just a phase that
children go through, something that they will eventually outgrow, but the
truth is that it is a serious problem which gets worse through time. It should
be noted and considered that the negative effects of bullying and of being
bullied reach into adulthood. Bullies are four times as likely to be involved
in criminal behavior, with 40% of bullies already having three or more
convictions by the age of 24
On the other hand, those who were victims of
bullying were found being bullied several years later. Those who had been
bullied in secondary school were found to have higher levels of depression and
poorer self-esteem by the age of 23, even though they were no longer harassed
or socially isolated. Chronically victimized students may even be at an
increased risk for other mental health problems, such as schizophrenia or
Evil actions are defined as repeated or
persistent, not commensurate with provocation and causing extreme harm, at
times due to repetition. Evil develops or evolves. As individuals and groups
harm others, they tend to develop characteristics that make further and more
intense harm doing probable (Staub, 1999).
A number of elements in the generation of evil
are evident. These are: 1. The system in which individuals live, whether
constituted by a culture and social conditions; 2. The nature of a family or a
classroom, and relationships among people; 3. Personal characteristics and the
behavior of bystanders; 4. The evolution of increasingly harmful acts over
time; and 5. The frustration of basic human needs and their destructive
With all the evil that seemingly surrounds us
in these times of war, terrorism and political malpractice, we definitely
wouldn't want our children to grow and contribute further to all the
disturbances that are already happening. It is then of utmost importance to be
able to raise these children properly and to surround them with the proper
This study would promote awareness on the
situation of bullying in schools, particularly in middle schools. This
awareness will prompt people to be more alert to its occurrence and will
hopefully help them better handle these situations.
Awareness and correct information will also
help schools develop more effective disciplinary measures and create open
lines of communication between teachers and students. Better curriculum may
also be developed, in order to boost the students' self esteem and create a
friendly and warm atmosphere around the school.
In the same manner, this study would help
parents evaluate their way of raising their children, so that children may be
brought up with proper values and good morals.
Data will be gathered from a school in
Portugal that has a
population of 582 students, 305 of which are boys and 277 are girls. The
students' ages vary from10 to 15 years old. There are also 74 teachers.
Surveys will be conducted and questionnaires
distributed among the students. Students' behavior will also be observed, and
some students may be interviewed.
Teachers will also be interviewed regarding
their observation of their students and how they see the situation concerning
Parents will be encouraged or urged to consent
to being interviewed regarding heir children's behavior and their family
background. The importance of the study will be explained to them so as to
ensure their cooperation.
After the data-gathering period, enough data
should have been gathered concerning the factors associated with bullying
behavior in middle school students( Bosworth, Espelage, Simon, 2003). These
can be grouped into the following categories: 1. Demographic variables; 2.
Misconduct; 3. Gun access; 4. Symptoms of depression; 5. Impulsivity; 6.
School sense of belonging; 7. Confidence; 8. Intentions to use nonviolent
strategies; and 9. Beliefs supportive of violence.
Demographic variables include gender, grade,
and race, as well as the social status of the student. Misconduct, on the
other hand, is measured by asking the participants whether they had been in
trouble or had problems at home, in school or in the community within a given
period and the frequency of such incidents, if any. Gun access would determine
how easily students can get a gun. Symptoms of depression would look into how
happy or sad the students are, and impulsivity will determine how much of what
students do are done without thinking first.
School sense of belonging is about how much
respect the students get from their teachers and fellow students, and if the
students have someone in the school whom they can talk to. Confidence is about
how confident the students are in preventing violence and in dealing with
situations in a non-violent manner. Intentions to use nonviolent strategies
measure how much students intend to or how far they are willing to go in order
to avoid violence. This is done by trying to understand the other person or by
staying calm among others. Lastly, Beliefs supportive of violence measures how
much students believe in violence as a means to an end or as a way of
uplifting one's self esteem or dignity.
Bosworth, Kris; Espelage, Dorothy L.; Simon,
Thomas R. (2003) Factors Associated with Bullying Behavior in Middle School
Students Northbrook, IL: Whitted & Cleary LLC
Branwhite, Tony. (2000). Helping
Adolescents in School.
Fry, Douglas P. (1997). Cultural Variation
in Conflict Resolution: Alternatives to Violence.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates
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