The Bullying Problem

 

What is Bullying?

There is an array of different terms used to define bullying. Specific to adolescents, Farrell and Sullivan (2004) define bullying as mistreating or intimidating of people perceived to be weaker. Within this construct are the specific behaviors used as a form of bullying. Perren (2005) described behaviors such as aggression, delinquency, and drug use, as well as promoting attitudes that support violent versus nonviolent methods of addressing problems as forms of bullying.

It is important to note that there are many behaviors that many fit into the category of bullying. As Perren (2005) noted, the promotion of violent and confrontational methods of conflict resolution are most common among adolescents. In terms of the research, these behaviors are often categorized as aggressive or externalizing problems.

Prevalence of Bullying

In 2002 the Surgeon General clearly stated that youth violence reached epidemic proportions, reported Larsen and Dehle (2007). The U.S. Department of Education estimates that each year, three million thefts and violent crimes occur in or near schools. That’s an average of 16,000 such incidents per school day (Harvard School of Public Health).

As previously mentioned,  anywhere between 6 to 13% of middle and high school students in the U.S. report moderate or frequent bullying (Peskin, Tortolero and Markham, 2006). Bullying begins in elementary school, peaks in middle school, and falls off in high school. It does not, however, disappear altogether (The Facts About Bullying, 1997).

Juvonen, Graham and Schuster (2003) suggest that 20 to 30% of U.S. students ranging from 6th to 10th grade are frequently involved in bullying as either a victim and/or a bully. This table shows the three categories of bullying: Bullies, victims, and bully-victims (Craig, W.M., and Y. Harel, 2004). More importantly, by age 24 60% of these identified bullies have a criminal conviction. (www.bullybeware.com).

Isolated by Bullying

There are a number of very public stories of the consequences of bullying and almost all of them include at least one cry for help. Recently in Japan, there were five suicide deaths of adolescent children, linked to bullying. Prior to committing suicide, these children sent letters to Japan’s Education Minister pleading for help. In the schools that these children attended peer bullying has reached an all time high.

Past high school shootings, such as the infamous attack at Columbine High School in Colorado, have often been attributed to bullying and feelings of isolation. These feelings arise from the lack of support from both peers and teachers. Frey et al. (2005) report that teachers intervene in only 15 to 18% of classroom bullying episodes.

Another source states that only 25% of students report that teachers intervene in bullying situations, while 71% of teachers believe they always intervene (www.bullybeware.com). When asked, students uniformly expressed the desire that teachers intervene rather than ignore teasing and bullying (Maine Project Against Bullying). Without the support of teachers, this bullying problem will never be solved.

Underestimated Problem

Unfortunately, there is no clear way to document the prevalence of bullying. Many instances of bullying occur behind closed doors and out of the sight of adults. In addition, there is a huge variety of behaviors that can be considered bullying. With the spike in technology use among adolescents, the problem has gone viral.

As shown in this table, bullying can occur in a number of different locations around school (U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, School Crime Supplement (SCS) to the National Crime Victimization Survey, 2007). This makes it difficult for adults to step in and for children to accurately report when and where they were bullied.

The shame and embarrassment derived from bullying has limited adolescents’ willingness to share their stories. A majority of the research done of bullying is done through self-survey, which stands the chance of being subjected to the bias of shame and embarrassment. This leaves the public with a considerably underestimated view of this massive problem facing adolescents today.

The statistics reported above only represent a small portion of the school populations around the world. Because of the limited access to accurate bullying statistics, many schools have turned toward preventive measures to combat bullying. This project intends to offer both preventive and reactive actives for both teachers and administrators, as well as adolescents, to reduce the prevalence of bullying.