BULLYING IN MIDDLE SCHOOL AND JUNIOR HIGH SCHOOL RESEARCH PROPOSAL
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BULLYING IN MIDDLE SCHOOL AND JUNIOR HIGH SCHOOL
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 themselves.
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 Boston.
One study, led by Dorothy Espelage, PhD, Christine S. Asidao, and Shontelle Vion, of the University of 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 University of Minnesota and Maria Bartini of the University of 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 in Portugal. Although 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 their teachers.
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 should behave.
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 suicide.
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 fulfillment.
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 environment.
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 bullying.
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.
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