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Bulling and intimidation at school


Lack of love, affection, understanding, communication, lack of parental supervision, excessive permissiveness, excessive discipline, and physical punishment may lead a child to antisocial behaviour. Aggressiveness at school among students constitutes a form of physical, verbal, and/or psychological violence. This phenomenon is internationally referred to by the term “bullying”, which is scientifically interpreted as “Systematic Abuse of Power”. After research done in Greece, the closest equivalent terminology that was given to the term “bullying”, is one who “acts like a bully”. This is the negative role model of the “bully” and the “thug”, the “bad guy” of the class. He/she is the leader of disruption of the class and of intimidation of other children.

Children become victims of verbal and physical attacks at school.

This provocative behaviour may be manifested either through active aggressiveness, which means that it is directed at others, or passively, through thefts, lies, tearing of books, etc. However, their actions are not always conscious, particularly in the younger ages. The aggressiveness, which children with behavioural disorders externalize, may take the form of physical or verbal violence, or a combination of both. For example, they hit others, they kick, pinch, push, threaten, swear, call others by nicknames, tease, insult their victims or their families, use racist comments (country, colour, religion), or socially seclude. Technology is now also at the service of young thugs, since they tend to send threatening messages to their victims on their mobile phones or by e-mail, and video record their humiliating attacks.

These children usually target either younger children, or children with low self-esteem or introverts, children who stand out, either because of some particular physical characteristic (they are short or plump), or because they have particular tastes or views that do not follow fashion, and, unfortunately, even children with health problems.

Child-victims find it difficult to talk to their parents, and even more so, to their teachers, because they are afraid that they will be stigmatized as the “snitch”, and then the “punishment” of seclusion from their group of friends will follow. ‘Bullying’ is characterized by repeated behaviour, which the child-victim has to endure on a daily basis. It is easy to understand how difficult a child’s life becomes, when he has to get up in the morning and go to school, knowing what will happen.

Another category is children-observers. These are children who do not actively participate, but look on in silence, or sometimes support the protagonists’ behaviour. Children-observers do not respond, because they have become accustomed to violent phenomena (emotional desensitisation), but also, because if they do react, they may “get into trouble”, and then become the next victim.

“Bad” children

“Bad” children provoke in order to attract attention and love.

“Bad” children are not just the lively, mischievous or joker students in a class. “Bad” children belong to a relatively small category that is growing continuously, and has a dynamic negative presence in schools, which is not socially acceptable (behavioural disorders). Of course, misconduct is quite different from delinquency, but we should be aware of the fact that it is its precursor. A child cannot suddenly become delinquent if no obvious signs of negative behaviour preceded, in almost every case. We, as adults should consider to what extent we detect (justify? overlook? ignore?) these signs of negative behaviour.

Causes: CAUSATIVE FACTORS

International studies have shown that there are many causative factors for the manifestation of undesirable and problematic behaviour during childhood and adolescence:

a) Family: Poor living conditions, conflicting intrafamilial relationships, absence of parents in children’s lives, lack of communication-dialogue, respect, love, understanding and affection for the child, which clearly negatively affect his biophysical and psychosocial development.

b) Social environment – social learning: Social learning is the most significant means of learning. Each child is a psychosocial entity that takes on the effect of his direct and indirect environment (parents, relatives, friends, teachers, neighbours, mass media etc.). Each child develops his own personality in relation to his own experiences. Children learn by imitating grown-ups, and particularly their parents. They usually don’t follow advice, lectures, words, but their own example and lifestyle.

c) Acknowledgment – approval: Every person wants to feel special. Students, who cannot be approved through their educational capacities and performance by parents, teachers, and classmates, seek different ways of acknowledgment. It is no coincidence that bad students are those who more frequently cause problems with their behaviour.

d) Genetic – neurological factors and predisposition: Biological and hereditary factors cause predisposition for the appearance of behavioural disorders. Psycho-environmental factors (mainly the family) can positively influence and minimize, or negatively influence and maximize, the problem.

PREVENTION AND TREATMENT:

Professor Dan Olweus’ programme

World-renowned Professor Dan Olweus has been persuing the “bullying” phenomenon for more than 30 years, and has applied a series of prevention and treatment programmes, which have been adopted by many countries of the E.U., as well as by many states in the U.S.A. The Olweus programme is applied in schools with properly trained educational staff, and with the support of specialists, psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers.

In general, the programme includes the distribution of anonymous coded questionnaires, aiming to detect and handle the problem, and includes personal meetings with children who intimidate, and separate personal meetings with children who are intimidated. Meetings with the parents of the above children are compulsory. Education on social skills forms the basis of the program. It should be mentioned that the training of school staff takes just two days, and, in addition, they are given a small booklet with directions, something that could easily be done in our country too. It should also be mentioned that the Olweus’ Programme, and similar programmes, are not very costly (about €1000 per school for the materials & the training of the staff).

The results of such a programme show 30-70%
a) reduction of intimidation (reduction of victimizers and victims)
b) reduction of antisocial behaviour (vandalism, fights, thefts etc.)
c) increase of discipline in class
d) increase of positive behaviour towards school and school projects

If school ‘thugs’ are not dealt with in the right way, they are likely to extend their antisocial behaviour, and then become delinquent. Studies have shown that children, who belong to the “high risk” group, have the following features:

A) At an individual level
Impulsiveness
They are easily angered
They don’t follow rules
Positive opinion regarding violent behaviour
Lack of empathy (how others feel)
Gradual decrease in school interests

B) Family
Lack of parental affection and communication
Excessive permissiveness
Excessive discipline / physical punishment
Lack of parental supervision

C) Friends
Friends and classmates with positive opinions about violent behaviour

D) School
Indifference or acceptance of school intimidation by the teacher
Indifference or acceptance of school intimidation by students

Panagiotis Samaras
Mphil, PgDip, BSc Hons
Teacher – Psychologist
Email: SamarasEdPsy@yahoo.com

 

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