Thesis: Educational Psychology Schools Must Take a Firm

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Educational Psychology

Schools Must Take a Firm Stand Against Bullying

Bullying in public schools is not a new phenomenon but it is a pervasive and serious problem, and a great deal of research has gone into the psychological aspects of bullying. Scholars, journalists, researchers and others - along with experts in psychology - have weighed in for years on the problem of bullying, and this paper will review some of that literature, including the research that is clearly appropriate for an educational psychology assignment. Indeed, this paper will posit that teachers, parents, and administrators should put their heads together whenever official cooperative moments are at hand and adopt mandatory polices against - and in response to - all forms of bullying in public schools.

The Handbook of Educational Psychology (Berliner, et al., 1996) suggests that bullying is connected to post-WWII psychological concept called "authoritarianism," not directly related to fascism but based on similar behaviors. To wit, "some individuals, although apparently intelligent... [can] harbor irrational superstitions, prejudices" and become "power-oriented" to the point of aggression (Berliner, p. 262). The authors assert that authoritarianism - "an enduring problem for education" - is a "multifaceted complex" related to "aggression and submission to authority as well as rigidity and stereotypy in ethnocentric, political, and socioeconomic beliefs" (Berliner, p. 262).

The key word in that last definition is "ethnocentric" (the tendency to view the world from one's own narrow cultural position) because in today's public schools there is a great deal of ethnic diversity, and the bully complex, based on the research that will be presented in this paper, is apparently intolerant of differences in appearance, ethnicity, language, personality and other departures from how he lives, thinks and believes.

The authors of the Handbook of Educational Psychology assert, "...upward of 30% of the school population may be bully or victim at some stage of school life" (Berliner, p. 263). While males tend to be bullied more than females, males dish out most of the bullying; and females are not immune to bullying albeit there bullying tactics are generally more along the lines of "indirect harassment" (Berliner, p. 263). Other facts presented by the authors include: most bullying happens at school and not between home and school but teachers "usually do little to stop it"; most parents are unaware of bullying either by their children or against them (until it becomes violent and the authorities step in); on average, bullies show "...impulsivity, a need for dominance, a positive self-concept, and little anxiety, insecurity, or empathy for their victims" (Berliner, p. 263).

Another aspect of bullying - in addition to authoritarianism - is referred to as "sensation seeking," the authors explain. This concept is described as the need for some students to "take physical and social risks for the sake of such experience." And moreover, between grades 6 and 8 some students seek "arousal" through taking risks, and among those risks is the bullying of students who give the impression of being "passive" or low in self-esteem and physical strength (Berliner, p. 263).

An article in the journal Children & Schools goes to great lengths to explain the relationship between a school's "psychosocial environment" and the prevalence (and types) of bullying behaviors. The authors first explain that bullying is referred to technically as "low-level violence" and this can include threats, intimidation, "verbal cursing, teasing," "stealing passively or by force, and physical attacks" (Meyer-Adams, et al., 2008). Bullies are "five times more likely than their classmates to end up in juvenile court" and when they become parents they are five times more likely "to have highly aggressive children" (Meyer-Adams, p. 212).

That having been said, the purpose of the article was not to just discuss bullying, but to examine "...how the frequency of [bullying] experienced by students (as perpetrators and victims) contributed to their interpretation of their schools' psychosocial environment" (Meyer-Adams, p. 212). And moreover, the article examines how those psychosocial environments "affected the existence of ongoing aggressive and avoidance behaviors," Meyer-Adams continues. The research reflected in this article was conducted in middle schools in Philadelphia using surveys with 7,583 students participating.

The findings in this study provide support for the authors' hypotheses that "victimization by bullying behaviors and contributing to bullying behaviors were significant negative predictors of the psychosocial environment of the school" (Meyer-Adams, p. 219). In other words, if bullying is tolerated, one can predict that the psychosocial situation in that school is ripe for that behavior.

Also, the findings provide backup for the authors' hypothesis that the psychosocial environment of the school, conversely, is a "significant and negative predictor of carrying a weapon for protection and avoidance behaviors to bullying," Meyer-Adams continues. That is to say, if one is to look at the psychosocial condition in a given school and see hints of unstructured, street-savvy behaviors being allowed, then bullying is sure to be part of that environment as well. The results of the survey of Philadelphia middle school students did not show however that looking at the psychosocial environment of a school could predict with any degree of accuracy whether or not gang membership is at a high percentage level in that school. And since gang behaviors are known to be aggressive to the point of violence, bullying is often embraced as a tactic by gangbangers.

The bottom line for these researchers in this article is that even though acts of bloody violence in schools (like Columbine High School in Colorado) receive a tremendous amount of attention in the media, these are infrequent events. "...A much more prevalent and often understudied form of school violence is the phenomena of low-level violence," such as bullying (Meyer-Adams, p. 220). The article - along with the theme of this paper - urges "early intervention strategies" to be implemented in schools when it comes to bullying. This will improve students' academic achievements and also improve students' "interpersonal experiences."

If bullying is as serious as the previous article expresses, how do principals in Alabama elementary schools view the problem of bullying? An article in the journal Education points out "...principals [in Alabama elementary schools] seem to view bullying as a minor problem for the most part" (Flynt, et al., 2008). However, when students with disabilities are bullied, and it comes to the attention of the principal of an elementary school in Alabama, principals "...welcome enhanced teacher preparation to help alleviate the problem..."

Mentioned first in the article is that studies by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development show three in ten students nationwide have been involved in some way with bullying - as a bully, a victim, or both. And when it comes to bullying disabled students - a concept that fits with the Handbook of Educational Psychology's explanation that "ethnocentrism" plays a big role in terms of the bully finding appropriate individuals to harass - certain disabilities are targeted by bullies most often in Alabama elementary schools. Those disabilities include: children with learning disabilities; Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder; medical conditions "that affect a child's appearance"; obesity; diabetes; hemiplegia; and children who stutter.

For this article, data was collected from 49 elementary school principals; 70% of the principals were females and had "less than 10 years administrative experience" (Flynt, p. 189). Eighty-eight percent of the respondents said bullying was "a minor problem"; ten percent admitted that bullying was "a major problem" in their school. Sixty-nine percent of the respondents answered, "yes" to the question, "Is there a specific policy in place that addresses bullying incidents in your school?" Thirty-one percent indicated they did not have a specific policy vis-a-vis bullying.

Also, sixty-three percent of principals responding to the survey said "no" when asked if there was a "specific intervention program/training for teachers" with regard to dealing with bullies, and eighty-seven percent said "yes" to the question "Would your school benefit from an intervention training program?" The bottom line with reference to this survey of elementary principals is that training programs are needed, and specific guidelines are needed in all public schools when it comes to mandatory bullying policies.

An article in the journal Professional School Counseling (Bradshaw, et al., 2008) examines the link between involvement in bullying - either from the perspective of a bully, a victim or a bully/victim - and "attitudes toward violence" among middle and high school students. Along with attitudes of violence, the survey of 16,012 middle and high school students included "perceptions of safety" among those students. The implications for schools and school counselors - and of course educational psychology is part and parcel of the implications of bullying - is significant whenever serious surveys are conducted regarding violence in schools and how to minimize it.

In this study, the researchers sought to identify the characteristics of youth who are "at greatest risk for involvement in different types of bullying" and also how that involvement in bullying "relates to their attitudes toward aggressive retaliation and perceptions of the school environment" (Bradshaw, p. 10). Students involved in the survey were asked questions… [END OF PREVIEW]

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