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Associations among bullying, psychosocial problems and school performance

Likewise, bullying requires a number of aggressive acts committed by a more powerful person or group to a less powerful one (Farrington, 1993; Gini, 2008; Dukes et al., 2010).

Furthermore, bullying is taken part in different areas of our life like work, universities, churches and often in schools (James, 2010). In terms of school, bullying is possible to occur in the classroom, in the toilets, at the Gym class (Sapouna, 2008) and the most common place is the playground (Kaliotis, 2000; Sapouna, 2008).

Accordingly to the way that bullying is occurred is characterized as physical, relational and verbal (Bjorkqvist 1994; Wolke & Samara, 2004). The former involves physical acts like hitting, punishing, kicking or taking belongings; therefore, there is a face-to-face meeting between bully and victim (Olweus, 1993; Dukes et al., 2010). Relational bulling is less obvious and includes behaviours such as ignoring, spreading gossip and other acts that lead to a social isolation (Olweus, 1993; Wolke & Samara, 2004; Dukes et al., 2010). On the other hand, verbal bullying comprises actions like name calling, cruel teasing etc. Furthermore, in the literature, the first two types sometimes are called as ‘direct bullying’, whereas the relational bulling is labeled as ‘indirect bulling’ (Wolke & Samara, 2004).

The literature (on school bullying) suggests three different groups of pupils who are involved (embroiled) in bullying (Smith et al., 1993; Salmivali et al., 1996; Andreou, 2001; Sapouna, 2008). These are: bullies, victims and bully/victim and each of these have its own characteristics (Andreou, 2001).

For instance, a bully is usually more aggressive than other peers, is characterized by poor social skills (Smith, 2004). A victim is likely to become depressed, desperate, antisocial and interpersonal adults (Klomek et al., 2007; Kim et al., 2009).

Finally, a bully/victim is an aggressive child as well, is characterized by poor social skills and low self-esteem and social acceptance (Andreou, 2001). This group of children, due to the fact that they do not have support from other peers, they have more possibilities to appear psychological problems in later life (Smith, 2004).

To sum up, considering the above we can say that bullying can be connected with Psychosocial problems (Gini, 2008), low school performance (Nansel, et al. 2001) and all children who are involved in bulling appear more behavioural problems than neutral young people (Wolke & Samara, 2004).

Furthermore, Wolke & Samara (2004) also found that bullying at home is highly connected with bullying at school. Specifically, a victim among siblings has more changes to be involved in bullying at school and develop antisocial behaviour (Wolke & Samara, 2004). One good explanation for this would be that interactions among siblings “help children to develop social skills and provide emotional support” (p. 1016) (Wolke & Samara, 2004). However, in some studies this relationship tends to be inconsistent (Stocker & Dunn, 1990).

In the same vein, according to the literature, there are differences in bullying involvement between the two genders (Sapouna, 2008; Dukes et al., 2010). Boys are more frequently involved in physical bullying and use violent behaviour whereas girls are tend to prefer indirect acts of bullying (Nansel, et al. 2001; Sapouna, 2008).

As we have already mentioned, Bullying is a worldwide phenomenon which has attracted the interest of psychologist and health professionals all over the world (Gini, 2008). There is a remarkable number of studies that have come to a conclusion which connects bullying with psychosomatic problems (Gini, 2008) and school performance (Nansel, et al. 2001).

The Present Study

The aims of the study are to find the relationship between bullying at school and at home with psychosocial problems (such as emotional, social problems) and school performance (academic achievement).

Consequently, the hypothesis of the survey will be:

Boys bully more than girls and girls are more likely to be bullied.

Verbal bullying (called names) are more frequent than physical bullying (stolen from)

Getting bullied in the playground is a more common place than classroom or corridors.

Bullying may cause psychosocial problems that will affect student’s social behavior and their performance at school.

Methods

Sample

This study will be a Cross-Sectional study and all data will be collected from approximately 100 children between the ages of 12-14 who will be attending schools in the greater area of Kingston, London, U.K. The participating schools and all participants will be randomly selected. The participants will be children (both boys and girls are included) in their early adolescence (12-14 years old). Both genders will be selected in order to draw conclusions with respect to the bullying rates between boys and girls. Moreover, for the selected age of the participants which ranges from 12 to 14 years old, there is extensive previous literature making our results comparable to already existed studies. Finally, a more comprehensive understanding of bullying in the context of those ages it is crucial since studies have found that (Gini, 2008) children who were bullied for the first time before the puberty seem to get over it; however, those who are bullied during the first years of puberty seems to have psychosomatic problems and problems with their school performance

Procedure

The study complies with the strict ethical guidelines for research on humans and is approved by the Ethical Committee of the University of Kingston. This Prior to the beginning of the research letters asking for written consent to the research will be sent to the headteacher and to each teacher separately. Furthermore a letter including a consent form will also be sent to the parents. The latter will ask the parents to return the consent form if they do want their child to participate in the study. Moreover, the children-participants prior to the beginning of the research will be fully informed concerning the procedures and the goal of the study and they will be asked to give verbal consent. If a child does not wishes to participate, or he changes his mind along the way he can stop participating any time since the participation to this study is voluntary, and no one is obligated to participate.

After having obtained the permission from the headteacher and the teacher of the classroom, students will be approached in their classrooms by the researcher. The teacher will be asked to be present so as the children will feel more comfortable and less stressful during the procedure. The researcher will read loud and clear the instructions and the definition of bullying which as a tern will be included in the questionnaire. After that a discussion with examples will follow in order to reassure that all children have completely understood the all the terms (bullying, bullies, victims, bully/victim).

Questionnaire

The children will be administered a questionnaire which is simple and it takes approximately 20 minutes to be completed. After having answered the questionnaire, they will place it in an envelope, which will be immediately sealed in front of the children in order to be reassured that that no-one else apart from the researcher will view the answers. Although the responses provided by the participants will be placed anonymously in a sealed envelope it will be possible to match up their responses with the teachers answers, since both the material provided to the students and the teachers will be coded numerically and the questionnaires will be handed out to the students alphabetically. By doing that, the researcher will not be aware of the student’s name that corresponds to each questionnaire while at the same time the teacher who will be aware of this , and rate their academic achievement will never view the children responses. Therefore in case any of the participants disclose something that potentially raises concerns regarding the well-being of themselves we the researcher will be able to contact the teacher, who will communicate the name that corresponds to the specific questionnaire.

The bullying questionnaire will be used to find out if students were bullied or if they bully others at school (with peers) and at home (with siblings) asking about different bullying forms. The students will also be asked the place where bullying took part.

Afterwards, the Strength and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) will be used to detect if and to which degree ‘bullies’, ‘victims’ and ‘bully/victims’ have Psychosocial problems. The SDQ (Goodman, 1997) is a standardised questionnaire which is widely used with the proposed age group and specialists, including psychologists who use it to address mental health problems in childhood. Overall, this test is comprising a total of 25 items divided in five subscales: emotional symptoms (I am nervous, I usually have headaches), conduct problems (fight with other children), hyperactivity/inattention (think before acting), peer relationship problems (liked by other students) and prosocial behaviour (often volunteers to help others). The children will be asked to give their answers on the basis of how things have been for them over the last six months. In that way, the researcher will try to connect the answers from the SDQ and the bullying questionnaire in order to find out if and to which degree bullying can cause emotional, social and conduct problems (Woods and White, 2005; Su-Jin Yang et al., 2006).

The administration of the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ), completely justifies the time devoted for its completion and its use in the present study since it is the most adequate and useful instrument that most successfully addresses one of the question of this study which is to identify long term problems that are most likely correlated to bullying. Furthermore, there is a considerable amount of similar researches (Woods & White, 2005; Su-Jin Yang et al., 2006) that have used the SDQ questionnaire indicating that victimization and bullying are strongly correlated with emotional, behavioural and social problems. Another advantage of its implementation is that it makes our results comparable to the findings of previous studies since the same instrument is used.

Consequently, the administration of the SDQ questionnaire aims to detect if children have emotional problems, conduct problems and peer relationship problems in the last six months and if this is caused by bullying.

Furthermore, teachers will be kindly asked to complete a rating scale form in order to rate the child’s performance in relation to the average level expected of their class on each of the following National Curriculum subjects in the last six months. In that way we will be able if and to which direction has every child’s performance changed and see if it can be correlated with the answers from the bullying and the SDQ questionnaire (Lars Lien, 2009).

Analysis

All analysis will be done using the SPSS statistical software (PASW statistics 18). Categorical analysis and an analysis of variance (ANOVA) will be used to determine differences among frequencies of children in physical, verbal and relational bullying and psychopathological and psychosomatic problems, sex differences, grade differences, having a sibling or not and school performance. For the purposes of the present study the statistical approach over the qualitative is more appropriate for the interpretation of the results since it gives us the opportunity to examine the bullying in multiple levels simultaneously as also it provides us with more information.

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