As partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Degree of Bachelor of
Psychology in the School of Psychology at Curtin University of
Technology, Western Australia
I declare that this dissertation is my own work and has not been
Submitted in any form for another degree or diploma at any university or other institute
of tertiary education. Information derived from the published or unpublished work of others has been acknowledged in the text and a list of references is given.
I acknowledge the help of my supervisor Lyndall Steed. My fellow postgraduate students involved in the bullying project Joe Cardosa, Julia Pemberton, Sian Lambert and Orla Mclroy. Brian Steels and Dorothy Goulding of Restorative Justice Western Australia. Rod Mitchell of RJWA. The year nine students of All Saints College who were involved in the RJ program. The year nine teachers of All Saints College; Jill Angel and Father Terry.
Bullying behaviour is examined with particular reference to schools in terms of prevalent attitudes towards it, its nature and its causes, the characteristics of the bullies and their victims, and some strategies to reduce the behaviour in schools. Literature and research is commented on and references are drawn particularly from a radio program interview and subsequent talk-back, as the issue is currently very much in the public domain due to extreme incidents in American schools, and the perceived threat of similar incidents occurring here in Australia. The history and philosophy of Restorative justice is reviewed with reference to the application of its principles in addressing the problem of bullying behaviour in schools. A pilot study evaluation of an introductory program on the approach of restorative justice to issues of justice in schools was conducted by postgraduate psychology students of Curtin University. Rod Mitchell, a member of Restorative Justice Western Australia delivered the program to year nine students of All Saints College in Bull Creek. Some positive indications of the effectiveness of the program were found, it is hoped more schools can be encouraged to participate in further programs.
Table of Contents Page
What is bullying? 2
Bullies and their Victims 3
Dealing with Bullies 4
Stories of Bullying 5
Intervention programs 7
1.1 The History of restorative justice 1
1.2 The reintroduction of Restorative justice 3
1.3 The Restorative justice conference 4
Restorative justice in schools; an alternative to
punishment for bullies 5
1.5 The Curtin evaluation study 7
1.6 Developing the questionnaires 8
Chapter 2. Method
2.1 The instrument 9
2.2 The procedure 9
Chapter 3. Results 10
Chapter 4. Discussion 12
List of Tables
Table 1. Means for statistically significant responses to likert scale questions
for questionnaires 1 and 2 10
Table 2. Differences in non-punitive responses to questions in
questionnaires 1 and 2 11
Table 3. Male and female non-punitive responses for scenario 1, question 1 11
Table 4. Non punitive and strongly punitive responses to question 1 scenario 1
Table of Contents (continued) Page
for each questionnaire by class showing split for males and females for
classes 9w and 9z 13
Table 5. Strongly punitive responses by males and females to question 1 13
Table 6. Empathetic responses towards Melissa and Kristy 14
Bullying; A Schools Perspective
When a teenage boy walks into his high school and guns down fellow pupils and teachers the loudest question heard is WHY? One of the first answers is the predictable one that guns are bad and that there should be gun control laws. When examining the politics of the right to bear arms (in America) etc and the many other attitudes and circumstances that lead to these tragedies the most important issue to address surely is what motivates a person to behave in such a way. Sadly it seems from our reading of the media reports that unsatisfactory and/or dysfunctional interpersonal relationships are often major factors, and bullying is one of these insidious factors. It is a worldwide problem. There is comment that the increasing competitiveness of modern society and the associated pressures on children to excel at school are fanning the flames. In Japan, a country which has an extremely competitive society, there is mounting concern that some of the society’s values need to be examined as possible influences towards bullying behavior (Fredman, 1995).
Bullying is a problem in many areas of human interaction. It has a history that includes such extreme and horrific events as the inquisition and the holocaust. A paternalistic sense of the superiority of one culture over others and it’s resultant imperialism is another guise of bullying (Maguire, 1998). In less serious but still potentially traumatizing forms we find it in the workplace as sexual harassment and managerial abuse. We find it in the home in child abuse and marital abuse. Crime bosses thrive on it as do corrupt police. The examples are endless.
Bullying, as a social interaction, can never be condoned. It should not even be accepted, and yet it seems that there is some debate as to whether it should be resisted by persons who are uninvolved, by that I mean in the case of school bullying, parents and teachers. According to Rigby (2000) many people who were bullied at school don’t believe that it caused them any harm. However Rigby (2000) states that perhaps as many as 10% of children are harmed by bullying. It would seem plainly obvious to most of us that bullying is unpleasant. However according to Rigby (2000) the task of making it an issue to be addressed is thwarted somewhat by those who claim that research data showing correlations between low self-esteem and the experience of being bullied do not infer causation. Their claim is that parental attitude and associated home conditions are possibly involved. Rigby ‘s own research (Rigby, 1993) has been more careful than some of his predecessors and reveals more convincing relationships between persistent bullying and negative effects such as poor school work, as well as the previously indicated low self esteem and depression.
In some of our schools it is now being recognised as a problem to be dealt with at the school level. But there are some schools that prefer to ignore it in the hope that it will go away, or that the students will sort it out themselves. A problem and a very sensitive issue is how to respond to the victims and offenders once they have been identified. Research into that area is political dynamite as well as an ethical nightmare as how do you chose who is to be treated in particular ways, bearing in mind that the attitude to and treatment of these subjects is qualified by the political philosophy adopted for the model. For example, in simple terms at one extreme we can adopt a punitive approach to the offenders once they are identified. We can show that pain exacted will reap pain in response, which may moderate behaviour. In this way however the victim is left to carry on with or without some counselling or debriefing. The entirely opposite view involves a restorative justice approach, which involves giving both the offender and the victim an opportunity to heal the hurt through a process that focuses on a conference between all parties. The restorative justice approach is problematic in that it can have an effect on the school discipline (Cameron and Thorsborne, 2000).
The particular focus of this essay is the school perspective on bullying and strategies that can be used to deal with it. However before we examine those strategies we need to ask the question exactly what is bullying, and what causes it? We also need to examine how it is that a person behaves as a bully, and how a person behaves as a victim. We can do this from the perspectives of the various theories and research presented over the last 30 years, prior to that bullying as a behavioral problem was not isolated for research.
What is bullying?
It seems that like many things we may wish to define, the theoretical perspective of whoever is making the definition determines the actual definition, in part at least. Shirley Waugh arguing from a Freudian psychoanalytical perspective suggests that the precursors of bullying are part of normal development and are present by age three years (Waugh, 1998). She claims bullying is a development from infantile omnipotence. This dualistic concept describes the desire to be all-powerful, and the resultant wish to project the parts of oneself which involve powerlessness onto others who become ‘despised ones’ (Waugh, 1998). Her definition is thus written in psychoanalytic terms as;
“Bullying is physical or psychological violence by an individual (or a group) against another individual who is not able to defend him or herself in the actual situation. Bullying is usually a conscious wish to attack another individual, but under the conscious desire to victimise the Other, there is an unconscious wish by the bully to disown and project his/her own despised vulnerabilities, fragilities and fears, and to believe that these attributes belong solely to the bullied individual, in whom they can be safely despised and scorned.” ( Waugh,1998.p8).
Waugh suggests that as we mature we become tamed, partly tamed, or untamed. Those wild animals otherwise known as Homo Sapiens who are tamed do not as a rule become bullies for they are more accepting of their negative aspects. The partly tamed are most likely to be bullies for they still have not come to terms with their ‘darkness within’ and project it onto their victims. As this action relieves them of the stress of their internal incongruence but does not remove it, they are likely to repeat the activity and that is characteristic of bullying. The untamed become psychopaths probably criminals and murderers, not bullies in the strictest sense for they are not relieved by their ill treatment of others but are in fact further enraged by the pathos of their victims. To these three groups Waugh adds as a fourth group those who are addicted to watching suffering and the excitement of the use/abuse of power (Waugh, 1998).
To examine actual empirical research we have to look to Scandinavia. Scandinavia led the first attempts at studying the bully/victim problem in the early 1970s (Olweus, 1993). Then in 1982 three boys aged 10 to 14 years-committed suicide allegedly because of bullying. A direct result of this was that in 1983 Norway campaigned nationally against the problem of bullying. The work of Dan Olweus was and still is significant in the study of bullying and how to deal with it. His definition of bullying is;
“ A student is being bullied or victimized when he or she is exposed, repeatedly and over time, to negative actions on the part of one or more other students,”
(Olweus, 1986 and 1991, in Olweus, 1993. p9).
Olweus uses the expression ‘negative actions’ as the implication of his own definition of aggressive behaviour. That is “when someone intentionally inflicts, or attempts to inflict, injury or discomfort upon another” (Olweus, 1973. in Olweus 1993. p9).
Olweus developed a Bully/Victim questionnaire, versions of which are suitable for all grades from primary upwards. It was used to first to determine the extent of the problem in Norwegian schools, and has been translated into English. It basically informed the students what constituted bullying by giving them a definition, and sought information as to time frames, frequency, the behaviours and their reactions to bullying. In 1983-84 one student out of seven was involved in bully/victim problems. Data was subsequently collected in other countries including England, Canada, The Netherlands, Japan and Australia which revealed the same and higher prevalence rates (Olweus, 1993).
A significant finding by Olweus was that bullying styles of boys and girls were different. Boys who bully tended to use ‘direct bullying ‘ or open attacks on the victim most. Girls tended to favour the ‘indirect bullying’ style which involves social isolation and intentional exclusion. Both boys and girls used either style but generally they demonstrated the different styles as stated. A tendency toward a reduction in bullying behaviour in older children and a tendency of that behaviour towards indirect bullying was shown in the older grades for boys as well as girls. Younger and weaker children were therefore the common victims, but it was also found that not only were boys most often the victims, but girls were more likely to be bullied by boys than by other girls (Olweus, 1993).
Bullies and their victims.
What is a typical victim or bully? Olweus maintains that his research and research by others in the field presents a clear picture of their characteristics (Olweus 1973 and 1978; Bjorkquist et al.1982; Lagerspetz et al 1982; Boulton & Smith, in press; Perry et al, 1988; Farrington ,in press; all cited in Olweus 1993).
The typical victims according to Olweus (1993) fall into two types, the passive or submissive victim and the provocative victim. The former signals to potential bullies that they are insecure and worthless and will not retaliate if attacked or insulted. The latter smaller group, some of whom are hyperactive, irritate others around them provoking them to negative reactions which extends into bullying behavior. For both types the self-image is of failure, stupidity, shame and unattractiveness. At school they are lonely and abandoned, without one friend and in the case of boys especially they tend to be physically weaker than their peers and parents comment that they have shown cautiousness and sensitivity since an early age. Although victims tend to be free of victimization by age 23, they are more likely to be depressed and have poor self esteem as a result of the earlier trauma (Olweus, 1993).
The typical bully according to Olweus (1993) is characterized by aggression towards peers, and often also towards adults. He summarizes them as having an aggressive reaction pattern combined with physical strength. They have a more positive attitude towards violence, a positive view of themselves. They tend to be physically stronger than other boys, they are impulsive and while showing a strong need to dominate others they also demonstrate little empathy with their victims. It is usual for them to enjoy hurting others, and there is the added attraction that sometimes bullying can bring benefits such as money and things of value (Olweus, 1993). Anti-social disorder can also comprise bullying. I earlier referred to the psychodynamic theories presented by Shirley Waugh on bullying being a precursor to criminal behavior (Waugh, 1998). Olweus had also made that connection. He had found that 60% of bullies in grade 6-9 had a conviction by age 24, compared to 10% of boys in a control group (Olweus, 1993).
Bullying is widespread in schools and it is a problem in the adult world. Recent world events highlight the danger of abusing power and force as tools for achieving agendas whether they are grand nationalistic ones or personal. However it could be part of the catalogue of human behaviors that have survived from antiquity. Evolutionary psychology maintains that all human behaviour has antecedents in ancient behaviour that ensured survival. Kurzban and Leary (2001) propose that ancient conflicts for reproductive resources led to the tendency of humans to form groups. This group psychology exploits individuals in other groups and prepares members to defend themselves against exploitation from other groups. Some people are socially excluded because of poor trading value and also because of disease and parasite contagion risks. Kurzban and Leary (2001) explain that we possible identify these people by their weakness and lack of physical beauty as their bodies are negatively affected by the disease or parasite infestation. This exclusion attitude has evolved in the same way as our natural and heightened fear of snakes and spiders.
As such some forms of bullying could have a prosurvival adaptive aspect to it, it could be considered a factor integral to the pattern of human behaviors that have ensured the survival of the human race. Perhaps some children sense the competition or threat and attack. Those who feel the competition less keenly but find safety in the aggressor group could then support them. However even if there is some evolutionary reason behind the behaviour of bullying, a continually evolving human society should not continue to be held to ransom by these behavioral relics. Perhaps school is a place where we can educate future adults to be free of the behaviour of bullying. It could be one more step towards a saner safer world.
Dealing with Bullying.
Bullying is unacceptable behaviour but how do people deal with it? What strategies are in place, and what is both practical in application and of use in moderating or stopping this behaviour? Concern for the effects of bullying in schools has increased in recent times, a factor in this increased concern is the media attention to the horrendous massacres in American schools. The question raised concerns the likelihood of it happening here in Australia. There is debate in the media every time such incidents occur. In Western Australia recently a headmaster called the police into the school over the violent behaviour of a student. This stimulated much media coverage. Coosje Griffiths as one of WA’s foremost educators on strategies to deal with bullying, was asked on ABC radio what she thought parents could do when their children reported being bullied.
Griffiths suggested that maybe the parents could talk to the child and actually find out what they want, and how they would like to be supported. She suggested that some parents would like to go a little further than the child is prepared, the child not necessarily having the confidence that the school will respond. She felt though that to take the power away from the child and make decisions on their behalf does not help them in the future. She maintained that they need a lot of confidence building, and they need to repair relationships. The important resiliency factor and protective factor that’s been found through the research is that one good friend actually will help any child. So the importance of fostering relationships with other children is really important (Griffiths, 2001).
Griffiths said that they (the education department) have a whole systems strategy, which is a behaviour management in schools strategy. “The first thing is to listen and to be customer focussed, and listen to the person, hear what they’ve got to say. Then walk through the system. If you do things in a very punitive fashion it might have a negative affect. And part of the role of schools is to help kids with learning about relationships and repairing relationships rather than saying here are the baddies and here are the goodies. We want all students to come out the other end with relationship skills and feel that they belong. Even the ones that do the wrong thing.” (Griffiths, 2001).
Survey statistics, theories and general research conclusions all help to increase our knowledge of bullying but personal stories help to illustrate the very real pain that is experienced as a result of bullying behavior. Talk back radio callers do not represent a fair sample of those affected by bullying as many people would find the experience too intimidating. However those that do call in are obviously highly aroused and motivated on the issue and they do have stories to tell and those stories are then heard in the public domain. Consequently they enter into the public debate, a debate that should never be the exclusive domain of academia or politics. With that in mind I justify the presentation of some anecdotal evidence of the problem of bullying, evidence that was aired on ABC radio during the interview with Coosje Griffiths .
Stories of Bullying.
A caller by the name of Julie related how she had observed two generations (her own and her children’s) of bullying and how it was coped with and what strategies had been developed. She was bullied at school partly (she felt) because she was very intelligent, fairly quiet, and large and strong. She took it quite patiently for over 3 years then she picked up the worst of the bullies and shook her. She thought that it was not the right way to do it, but “by golly it worked.” So she was interested in how her children responded to bullying. Interestingly her son dealt with it the same way that she did, he was very small but very bright and he was bullied. She said that “he went totally tropo and beat up somebody twice his own size. Insanity is marvelous.”
She related how one of the people from her school had told a friend of hers later on in life about bullying her. “We bullied her (Julie) dreadfully at school because she wouldn’t do what we did. We wanted to be her friend but she wouldn’t smoke with us in the toilets and go out drinking, and so we had to bully her.”
She told her daughter that bullies feel they have to bully others to make them like them. She said that her daughter then knew what was behind them doing it, and this made her more able to resist it. She also encouraged her daughter to step in if someone else was being bullied, to try and verbally persuade him or her to stop.
Griffiths’ commented that although sometimes it was the kids who were a bit different that got bullied, it was not always the case. It might be a chance situation that for some reason they are in the wrong place at the wrong time. She was interested in what Julie said about being verbally assertive. It was part of the training program that the department offered students that they should be protective verbally, but not physically. Saying “stop it I don’t like it” and then walking away from the situation was to be encouraged. It was of concern that students sometimes used physical force to put bullies in their place. However the result of that is often an escalation of violence and so it is not a recommended way of dealing with bullies.
To the suggestion that schools should get tough on bullies Griffiths replied that it really depends on whom you are talking about. She said there was a need to understand what was happening in the schools from the perspective of the students, and that all schools do have guidelines for when they go over the line into behavior such as aggression of any form. There are sanctions in place and there is a need for it to be very clear that that behaviour is unacceptable. Unfortunately sometimes the victim of bullying will lash out, as in Julie’s example, and then they will be suspended themselves. There is a need to teach kids how to deal with situations of conflict. She said that they do follow up some cases and some of them do need very strong case management, with people working together as a team, in some cases involving other agencies (Griffiths, 2001).
Annette reported that she was actually a bully at school. She felt her family background was influential in her behaviour. Her parents were Irish, and in Ireland it was very unusual for parents to breakup. They couldn’t divorce because they were Catholic, and to hide how inferior she was feeling inside she actually took it out on her classmates. Griffiths’ response to that was that that was a significant issue, that every situation is different and in this case that was her response and way of dealing with a very difficult home situation.
Bonnie was very unhappy with the school’s inability to protect her son. He had actually removed himself from the school to go to another. This was after he had allegedly been blinded in one eye by a laser and beaten resulting in a large bruise to the head. She said the Principle didn’t seem to know what to do about it. He told her that he walked around the school at lunchtime and never saw her son being bullied. She felt like saying to him that he would never have seen her being bullied in the school yard either, because the behaviour does not occur where someone’s going to see it happen. Apparently her son was very happy at his new school because of his anonymity, but nevertheless Bonnie said that she wanted the children at the school to see that there are consequences to this behaviour for the bully also. So she insisted that the boy (the offender) be at least removed from school for two days. But then a teacher informed her that that boy would come back after watching videos at home for two days and he would come back a hero to his mates.
Griffiths’ replied that there are class programs where all students are sensitized to the effect of negative comments and behaviours, and that these programs really change what happens in the dynamic of the class. Most students say they don’t like bullying and they want it to stop. She suggested that it was up to them to come up with ideas and ways that they can change. In that way the social climate could be changed within the group.
An ex teacher called Barbara raised the issue of a bully who was not being properly dealt with and had grown up to be a killer. She posed the question that if a child is not sensitive how can they be trained to be sensitive? To that issue Griffiths offered the simple response that these children are case managed.
Another caller called Elizabeth felt that some 15-year-olds couldn’t be sensitized. Her son was suffering and the school was not helping. She said that the school had informed her that it was up to her son to approach the school for help. Griffiths advised her to approach the district office, and that the school may need some support from the administration.
It was also reported that there was a new aspect of bullying to do with ADHD students. Apparently there is concern that children diagnosed as ADHD defend antisocial behaviour including bullying on the basis of their forgetting to take their medication. To this there is no consequence. Griffiths acknowledged the problem and said there were new initiatives with GP’s, teachers and parents. Each child needs a different plan but they have to take responsibility. It is not good enough to use the excuse of not taking medication.
Intervention programs for dealing with bullying.
The organization of students as peer support or helpers has shown to be effective in challenging school bullying (Peterson and Rigby, 1999: Naylor and Cowie, 1999). The students can be trained in mentoring, befriending, conflict resolution, advocacy/advice giving and counselling based approaches (Naylor and Cowie, 1999). Empowering students to help others is particularly effective as students are more likely to accept help from other students than from teachers (Peterson and Rigby, 1999). Some of the activities they can be involved in are anti-bullying committees to plan strategies, public speaking groups to speak at assemblies, and drama groups to present dramatic performances of bullying at events such as orientation meetings ( Peterson and Rigby, 1999).
An intervention program designed by Dan Olweus (1993) has seen extensive use and a description of it would serve to indicate what can be done to deal with this problem of bullying behaviour. Olweus suggests the program should approach the problem at the school, class and individual levels (Olweus, 1993).
At the school level the first step is a questionnaire survey. It is important to assess the nature and level of the bullying problem in the school before the program is initiated. This helps to alert the school community to the problem and when at a later date a second survey is carried out the effectiveness of the program can be assessed. As I have already mentioned Olweus has designed an anonymous bully/victim questionnaire for this purpose. There are several questionnaires available and schools can choose which is most appropriate and adapt it or write their own. A survey and comprehensive analysis of such questionnaires was conducted by the Universities of Seville, London, Minho and Firenze (Ortega, Mora-Merchan, Lera, Singer, Smith, Periera, and Menesini 1999). Whatever the level of the problem the goal should be to eliminate bullying, the survey helps particularly to motivate the adults associated with the school, parent and teacher involvement is considered crucial to the success of the problem.
Following the survey it is useful to set up a school conference day. The results of the survey can be discussed by the principle, teachers, parents and students and a plan drawn up with due consideration of the school’s particular issues with reference to implementing Olweus’ program or an adaptation of it.
Supervision of the outdoor environment can be a controversial issue. As Olweus (1993) points out some teachers are reluctant to be the school yard policeman and effectively silently condone bullying by the way they refrain from observing or intervening in it. The adult statement that bullying is not to be tolerated and the subsequent early intervention although not changing the personalities of the bullies goes a long way to protect the vulnerable from victimization. Olweus (1993) also suggests that it is helpful to separate younger and older students by giving them separate areas. He also suggests that providing an attractive and well-equipped environment makes a considerable contribution towards easing the boredom which can in some students increase the tendency to engage in bullying behaviour.
There are other measures that can be part of the overall program. These include a designated contact phone number through which students can make anonymous reports concerning bullying they have experienced or witnessed, the setting up of teacher discussion groups, parent study/discussion groups, and regular parent-teacher meetings to discuss issues relevant to the attention to bullying. Even relatively minor examples of social exclusion can be considered worthy of attention if the problem is to be addressed effectively.
At the class level rules can be established. Olweus (Olweus, 1993) suggests that there are three basic rules that can be used as a starting point. They are; “we shall not bully other students, we shall try to help students who are being bullied, and we shall make a point to include students who become easily left out” (Olweus, 1993). Appropriate accurate literature can be introduced to the students, and role-playing can also be used as an effective teaching strategy to illustrate the impact of bullying and the ways in which students can help to stop it happening. The teacher can apply generous praise together with consistent and effective sanctions with particular attention to the fact that many bullies come from homes where aggression levels are high. These students are at risk of having conflicts with the laws and rules of society later in their lives (Olweus1979, in Olweus 1993) and a firm response can help them to learn more appropriate respect for such rules. The teacher can also introduce group work into the classroom. Olweus claims that students who participate in group work are more accepting of each other and are therefore less likely to indulge in bullying behaviour. This is achieved through what Olweus calls ‘ mutual positive dependence’ (Olweus, 1993). This occurs when students contribute towards a common answer, and perhaps a common grade assessment. Finally in terms of class strategies class parent –teacher meetings can be useful especially in the area of encouraging parents to discuss bullying with their children.
At the individual level the bullies and the victims need to be spoken to as early as possible. The class rules etc make it easier for the teacher to begin a dialogue with a bully, without the rules a bully can use defenses such as blaming the victim. The next step is to involve the principle and/or the parents. In the case of the victim more sensitivity is required as has already been noted victims are reluctant to involve parents or teachers for fear of making things worse for themselves.
As well as the use of compliance training to get students to adhere to the rules, understanding the personal situation of bullies and victims can also help provide supportive strategies. For example self esteem development through martial arts and other sports and recreation activities and responsibilities that are valued by the other students can lead to greater acceptance of the victims both by themselves and their peers and lower aggression by bullies. However when these strategies fail due to exceptional levels of aggression or hyperactivity then other professionals such as the school psychologist need to be involved.
It must be noted that bullying is a behaviour that is common in every aspect of human society. It has been shown that bullying is a significant problem in schools everywhere. There is a growing awareness that it is unacceptable in schools or anywhere else and that if it is dealt with effectively in school perhaps it will be reduced in the adult world also. There are factors such as personality and home environment that have a significant effect on peer relations (Rigby, 1993) but are not within the scope of the school community to address, but the behaviour can and should be controlled in the school environment by the school community. That community is the students, teachers and parents combined, and it is through co-operation and willingness to address the problem that progress will be made.