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As can be seen, bullying and victimization impact large numbers of children and adolescents throughout the world. Bullying involvement goes beyond cultural and geographic boundaries. It is deeper than just age, culture, social position, school type and religion. Academic, social, biological, psychological, physical factors impact students who are bullied and demonstrate the clear need to address this problem (Craig & Pepler, 2003; Due, Holstein, Lynch, et al. 2005; Nansel, Overpeck, Haynie, et al., 2003; Nansel, Overpeck, Pilla, et al., 2001; Volk, Craig , Boyce, et al., 2006). There is a need to increase understanding of the systems that may promote or reduce bullying, specifically those of school climate, cultural influences, peer processes, adult attitudes and behaviours and family interactions (Nansel, Craig, Overpeck, et al., 2004; Pepler, et al., 2008; Spriggs, Iannotti , Nansel & Haynie, 2007).
Bullying is a form of abuse. It is defined as repeated aggression in which one person has more power than another (Juvonen & Graham, 2001; Olweus, 1991). Most importantly, bullying is the use of a position of power in aggression against another. The person who bullies always has more power than the person victimized. This power may come from physical advantage such as size or strength but it can also manifest through social advantage. The person bullying may have a dominate role such as being older or have a higher social position such as being more popular than another student. Bullying can emanate from strength in numbers where a group picks on one lone child or may be due to racial or cultural differences or disadvantage. Power is used to cause distress when one knows another's vulnerability such as obesity, learning problems, or family background. The fact that bullying is repeated over time causes great psychological, social and physical harm. With repeated bullying the power relationship is strengthened and the victim's ability to resist weakened. The children who bully learn to use power to control other children and the children who are bullied become increasingly powerless to defend themselves from this peer abuse (Craig & Pepler, 2003).
Relationships are the foundation for healthy development and well-being in life. Yet children who are repeatedly bullied fail to develop these essential relationships (Craig & Pepler, 2000). These bullied students may become increasing isolated, socially anxious and stop engaging in activities with peers. These victims tend to have few friends, and once peers realize that this child is being victimized they are often unwilling to get involved for fear of being victimized themselves, they may even bully to become more accepted by those in power. If victimized over a prolonged period of time children and youth will lack normal social interactions critical to healthy development and relationship forming. The effects of these abusive experiences can last a lifetime. Damaged relationships create a significant social cost that extends beyond the individual impacting society as a whole. The patterns of using power and aggression through bullying, established in childhood, can have long-term impacts through adolescence and into adulthood. It is essential to identify children at risk for bullying and/or victimization and to provide support for their relationship development (Due et al., 2005; Kumpulainen & Rasanen, 2000; Nansel et al. 2001).
In a 40-country analysis of bullying by Craig et al. (2009), more than one-quarter (>25%) of participating adolescents (n = 53,249) reported involvement in bullying. Adults are the protectors of children and every child has the right to be safe and free from bullying. Everyone is affected by bullying, those that are being bullied, the children who bully others, and everyone who knows that bullying is going on. Children who are repeatedly bullied suffer significantly in terms of mental health problems, social isolation and withdrawal. They will become anxious, may refuse to attend school, and are often so anxious teachers complain they are not listening or they act out in aggressive ways in other situations (Kaltiala-Heino, Rimpela, Rantanen, & Rimpela, 2000). Children who experience repeated bullying frequently carry this hurt forward into adult relationships such as the workplace, sexual harassment, or marital, child and elder abuse (McMaster, Connoly, Pepler & Craig, 2002). The personal and social costs for children who are repeatedly bullied are significant, grades drop, and, children become unhappy and social isolates. Furthermore, public media contains frequent reports of those who were bullied who suddenly snap and lash out in devastating acts of suicide or violence toward others.
Craig et al. (2009) demonstrated different rates of involvement in bullying between countries, and, between girls and boys suggesting that this may reflect important cultural and social differences. She also believes that the difference may come from national policy and programs such as in Scandinavia where there are national programs to address bullying and the prevalence of bullying was relatively low. She points out that in the countries with the highest prevalence, there are no country-wide national campaigns against bullying. Studies from individual countries such as Canada, the United States, Lithuania, Israel, Poland and Greenland have described the prevalence of bullying and victimization in their respective countries (Mazur & Malkowska, 2003; Molcho, Harel, & Dina, 2004; Nansel, Overpeck, Pilla, Ruan, Simons-Morton & Scheidt, 2001; Schnohr & Niclasen, 2006; Volk, Craig, Boyce & King, 2006; Zaborskis, Cirtautiene, & Å½emaitiene, 2005), yet the only middle-east country to participate in the HBSC (2005/06) (World Health Organization, 2008) study of bullying was Turkey. There were no Arab countries involved and no studies have been published regarding bullying in this region. Qatar has no known studies of bullying prevalence or adult reactions to bullying. Whether bullying frequency is due to social/cultural differences or differences in preventative programs, it is important for Qatar to have its own data to understand the extent of the problem and the types of bullying being experienced by its children and youth. Further it is important to investigate the reaction of adults to bullying issues if one is to make recommendations for a future national program.
Countries are responsible for the healthy development of all their children. This is supported by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (United Nations (UN), 1989). Article 19 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) addresses the rights of children who may be bullied.
Article 19 states:
(Protection from all forms of violence): Children have the right to be protected from being hurt and mistreated, physically or mentally. Governments should ensure that children are properly cared for and protect them from violence, abuse and neglect by their parents, or anyone else who looks after them. Parties shall take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and education measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse, while in the care of parent(s), legal guardians(s) or any other person who has the care of the child. (UNICEF, nd.)
The role of society to educate and protect children is also outlined by the UNCRC and children need protection from bullying to develop into well adjusted healthy adults. Thus this research is important for Qatar if it is to honour its signing of the UNCRC.
Olweus (2004) suggests the role of adults is central in the prevention of bullying and bullying-related activities. All adults whether at school, home or in play are responsible for the promotion of children's ability to form healthy relationships. Reducing negative peer interactions and bullying are also the responsibility of adults. The myth that bullying toughens kids up for reality and that "it's just kids, being kids" are still pervasive (Craig & Pepler, 2003). Many teachers in schools ignore the beginnings of bullying, the time when it could be stamped out. With a better understanding of the dynamics of bullying, its progression and the interpersonal dynamics in children's lives, adults could be more instrumental to protect and support children's relationship formation and reduce bullying. As role models for children, adults must lead by example and not use their power aggressively; they must intervene when children report incidences of bullying. Therefore it is important to have a view adult reaction to bullying.
The only middle-eastern country to participate in the 2005/06 Health Behaviour in School-Aged Children (HBSC) was Turkey and very few other studies have been located in the Middle East. A small sample of Egyptian and Saudi children was used By Hussein (2010) to test reliability of the Peer Interaction in Primary School Questionnaire (Hussein, 2010). Hussein (2010) found that bullying in these two Arab countries was much higher than that of the United States. Another study examined the effects of cyber bullying in Turkey. No Arab studies have considered examining the frequency and specific types of bullying across ages or adult reactions to this victimization of children and youth.
Bullying is a significant social problem in Qatar. On the recent Supreme Education Council Report (SEC, 2011) and annual survey, 12% of children stated school was not a safe place to be. When asked how often they have been subject to negative actions in the past month more than 80% of students reported having something stolen and more than 70% indicated being subject to threats of physical violence, up from 60% the previous year. These results indicate children are not as safe from victimization, and are more likely to engage in bullying in Qatar schools. In a survey of Qatar school administration with respect to their concerns about bullying, more than 50% agreed that bullying is one of the biggest problems facing school administrators today. Surveys of individual teachers revealed that the majority agree or strongly agree that bullying is a problem in their school and they observe all major types of bullying in most schools including sexual bullying (Bradshaw & Kamal, 2011). Qatar's Vision 2030 speaks to a population that is healthy physically and mentally and educated. A society where children and youth feel safe and free from bullying is a necessity to reach these major goals and thus Qatar must address the issue of bullying in schools.
Although Qatar is a signatory of the UN Convention for the Rights of the Child it has yet to address the issue of victimization and bullying among children and youth. Children and youth need support to understand that bullying is wrong, develop respect and empathy for others, and learn how to get along with and support others. Bullying problems occur most frequently at school, but it is not just a school problem. Bullying can arise anywhere children and youth come together. The high proportions of Qatari students who report bullying or being bullied confirm that this represents an important social problem. Although there are some activities at some schools and some schools even have an anti-bullying statement there is a need for good data, to understand the extent and types of bullying in Qatar for different age groups. Adult response to the bullying is required to fully understand ways that bullying could be reduced. Bullying is a major social health concern and even a civil rights issue.
There is a need to reduce the high cost of repeated bullying. The costs to children themselves and the cost to society need addressing. These costs of bullying extend beyond the child to society as a whole. Children who are not performing to their educational capacity will raise the cost of education and may not reach their potential or may not be able to contribute to society in the most meaningful ways possible. Problems created due to bullying stress the healthcare system, increase costs in the justice system, including police and corrections (Pepler, Craig, Jiang & Connolly, 2008). These costs are preventable and avoidable by reducing and mitigating the effects of this negative use of power and aggression in all relationships. To reduce the costs we first need to know more about bullying in Qatar, the number of children and youth who are bullied, who bully and adult reactions to the bullying.
Qatar needs research based information to understand bullying and to then address bullying problems as early as possible in all contexts where children live, work, and play. It is important to develop understanding tailored to the Qatar population and situation for all stakeholders in a child's development. Unfortunately some families consider the bullying act as being a normal variant of "acceptable" violent behaviour and part of learning self-defence, part of growing up, and by doing so they give their children and adolescents permission to continue with their aggression.
An understanding of the problem begins with prevalence estimates and age comparisons. More knowledge is needed about the etiology of bullying, the psychosocial and behavioural determinants, and the role of contextual factors. This study will provide local agencies, government and schools with evidence-based information and they will be better informed to make changes in their management of bullying, institute anti-bullying programs and support children and youth through important developmental stages. Without systemic response new scientific knowledge will not transfer. Once stakeholders can see the actual prevalence and types of bullying they will be more committed to engage in activities for the prevention of bullying on a wide scale basis. With a united voice and consistent policies to address bullying problems, one would expect slow and steady socio-cultural change supported by shifts in structural and day to day interactions with and among the children and youth of Qatar. A united voice to advocate for policies and programs to ensure safety and to promote healthy relationships for all children and youth in Qatar is needed and will surely develop with more knowledge about the extent of and damage caused by bullying.
Objectives / significance
The aim of this study is to examine the use of power and aggression in bullying to provide research based data and recommendations that could lead to programs to promote safe and healthy relationships for children and youth. This research study asks the following broad questions:
What is the prevalence of bullying as described by children and youth in Qatar?
What are the most common types of bullying found in Qatar schools and at what ages as described by the children and youth in Qatar?
Where does the bullying occur?
How frequently do students experience each different type of bullying?
What is the role of adults in school bullying?
The following are some questions that may be answered from this research:
How do bullying and victimization develop?
Who is at risk for being involved in bullying?
What are the consequences of involvement in bullying?
Who influences bullying?
How do other children participate?
What are parents' roles?
What is the role of schools and school staff?
What works to prevent bullying?
What can children involved in bullying do?
How can peers, parents or other adults help a child who is being bullied?
With answers to the above questions, meaningful training for teachers, administrators and parents is possible and with a survey developed for the local context follow up will also be possible to evaluate successes. A future anti-bullying program may be developed based on the local needs resulting from this research.
One of the authors, a Consultant Pediatrician at the Hamad Hospital School Health Specialist Clinic, sees many students who have been bullied; they are the victim of a bullying act. Some of them are so damaged that they drop out of school, and never want to be enrolled in any school system. In schools in the state of Qatar, bullying was and still is considered a major problem yet it is an area which is sorely under researched, in fact, un-researched in Qatar. The negative impact that bullying has on students not only affects the victims but also the rest of the classroom (students witnessing the event and then are threatened not to tell), the bully who getting away with bullying increases his power, his psyche is altered and the school as a whole, this confirms the need for this research to quickly establish the size of the problem, and types of bullying to assist in tackling the problem. It also urges this project to encourage the establishment of new rules and regulations to guide our educational system in preventing bullying, and aggression; set laws to punish the bullies and prevent the victims from being physically and psychologically damaged. The effects of the bullying act on victims can negatively impact the well being of the students socially and academically more over in some cases it can be fatal.
All types of bullying occurs at schools in Qatar; physical, social-emotional, cyber, social isolation, spreading rumours, and sexual bullying. It can occur in any part of the school; in the classroom between classes, in the break time, in the PE lessons, in the bathrooms, in the school bus, while waiting for the bus, in the playground and after the school day, it is more prominent when students are left unsupervised or unwitnessed. Bullies feel that they have physical and mental power over the rest of the school's students, and are able to inflict pain without being punished or without consequence. When gone unnoticed the bully feels even more powerful and continues to bully. More over children, adolescent and their families need to feel that the school is a safe place to learn and meets students' physical, emotional and educational needs.
Preliminary data or studies
The authors of this proposed study have collected preliminary data from students, classroom teachers and administrators of schools in Qatar. Teacher and school administration have responded to questions about the frequency of bullying in their schools, the size of the problem and the types of bullying issues in their school. Preliminary results reveal that bullying is seen as taking more than 50% of school administrators' time and more than 50% of time for school counsellors/social workers. Many teachers report observing all types of bullying in school and often ignore small bullying. Further teachers state that if they spent time on every incident they would not have time left for teaching. Students (n=11) participated in hour-long face to face interviews regarding bullying at their school by Research Assistants in training. Results indicated that 9 of the 11 students interviewed stated that bullying is "the biggest problem at their school," the other two stated that it was a concern at their school. They related stories of being bullied and of bullying others to the interviewers. Some of these students also explained that students verbally bully teachers, especially teachers who do not understand Arabic. The male respondents in the interviews also relayed that they were aware of sexual bullying happening between boys at their school. When students were asked what they did about the bullying the students said they have tried telling an adult at school and at home but their complaints were discounted as part of life or they were told to fight back by some parents. Some even reveled to the interviewer that they wanted to change schools because they couldn't take the bullying. The Research Assistants were so moved by this task that some spoke to parents on behalf of the bullied students but were also told "it happens to everyone, it is part of growing up." One Research Assistant felt he should go to the student's school and see what could be done. This was a small number of students from a variety of schools and not students you would be expecting to be bullied or bullying. This small group highlight the need for extensive evaluation of the socio-cultural aspects of bullying in a country.
On the recent Supreme Education Council Report (SEC, 2011) and annual survey, 13% of children disagreed that school was a safe place to be, 13% of children not feeling safe alone indicates need for this research and action to follow. When asked how often they have been subject to negative actions in the past month more than 80% of students reported having something stolen and more than 70% indicated being subject to threat of physical violence in the past year. These results indicate bullying is a significant social problem in Qatar, children are not as safe from victimization, and are more likely to engage in bullying.
It is necessary to have a full picture of the frequency, types of bullying, locations of bullying acts and the responses of the adults so that further action may be taken toward a safe school environment for all students and adults. The questionnaire developed in this research can then be used at schools to monitor if their actions or anti-bullying programs are beneficial.
Research design and methods
School-based anonymous surveys will conducted during the school year. A representative sample of school children ages 11, 13 and 15 (approximately grades 5th, 7th and 9th ) using identical sampling methods will be taken from all school types in Qatar including Independent, Private, International and Community schools. It is very important to sample all types of schools in a country where the population make up is more than half expatriate workers from many different countries. In such a country the population is ripe for inter-racial or inter-cultural bullying and possibly even violence. The sampling unit will be a classroom within schools selected by a weighted probability technique to ensure that students were equally likely to be included. All students belonging to a sampled classroom (and present on the survey day) will be included in the sample. Schools will be stratified by relevant demographic characteristics such as ethnicity, religion, language of instruction, urban, rural, etc. Due to the small populations size of Qatar (less than 200,000 students enrolled in grades 1-12) a minimum of 200 students will be sampled from each age grouping, 11, 13 and 15, thus a minimum total sample of 800 students (Table 1). The probability of a larger sample is great as the sample will include full classrooms in each school type such that the sample size for each type of school is achieved. At least 10 classrooms of 11 year olds will be surveyed. A proportionate number of each type of school will be surveyed. Since schools are divided into primary, preparatory and secondary in most cases and parents choose a school independent of their home location, it will not be possible to follow groups of students from one level to the next to make any evaluations about bullying over time for a particular group of students. Some of the community and international schools do serve Kindergarten through grade 12 students and it may be possible to examine trends in these situations. Based on a confidence interval of 3.5 and confidence level of 95%, samples size should be approximately 768 students (Creative Research Systems, 2010).
The data will be collected through self-completion questionnaires using a tablet computer, administered in the classroom by the school counsellor or school social worker. The questionnaire will consist of: demographic questions and questions related to each type of bullying. The I-CAST (IPSCAN, 2007) and the PrevNet (Pepler & Craig, 2008) bullying surveys will serve as a basis for question development. PREVNet is a national network of Canadian researchers, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and governments committed to stop bullying. Both surveys have been developed and validated and used worldwide by leading researchers in the area of bullying research. I-CAST went through an extensive validating procedure during the development where researchers from across the globe met to evaluate each and every questions and to reword as needed (IPSCAN, 2007). Questions will be evaluated by local sociologists and social workers to ensure culturally and socially appropriate wording. School personnel who will be administering the survey will receive a full day of training on ethics and survey implementation.