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Addressing Bullying in Schools: Theory and Practice

Rigby, Ken
June 4, 2015

Source: (2003) Australian Institute of Criminology Trends & Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice. Canberra: Australian Institute of Criminology. Downloaded 17 February 2004.

This paper examines the strengths and weaknesses of five different explanations of school bullying.First, developmental theory asserts that bullying is an outcome of child development. This explanation argues that as children mature they struggle to assert their social dominance; bullying is thus a form of that struggle for dominance. This type of explanation engenders school policies that employ a problem-solving approach to anti-bullying programs. The second explanation attributes bullying to individual differences. Children who bully tend to experience low levels of empathy and high levels of psychoticism, while victims of bullying tend to have low self-esteem and be psychologically introverted. School programs that embrace this approach engage in anger management programs and assertiveness programs. Third, bullying is explained as a sociocultural phenomenon in which bullying is an outcome of segregation into specified social groups with different levels of power. School policies that embrace this view engage in curriculum and programs that reduce discrimination and prejudice. Fourth, bullying is described as a response to group and peer pressures. Bullying is explained within the social context of the school environment and its various social groupings. Anti-bullying programs that embrace this perspective tend to employ programs that work on the development of empathy. Finally, bullying can be explained from a restorative justice perspective. This is similar to the individual differences perspective in that it shows how the individual characteristics of the aggressor and the victim contribute to the bullying problem. Restorative justice responses can be put in place by the school to reduce bullying behavior. These different explanations of bullying have different implications for school policy; each school should consider which works best in their environment. Abstract Courtesy of National Criminal Justice Reference Service,


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