The Bullying Phenomenon: Definition, Prevention, and Intervention

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Dorey, Sarah
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Bullying not only affects victims, but also perpetrators, bystanders, and society at large. Despite concentrated efforts from schools, community organizations, and governing bodies, not only has traditional bullying continued, but bullying has now carried over to cyberspace. Until a better understanding of the motivations behind bullying acts is identified, this phenomenon will continue. This study sought to enhance current knowledge regarding bullying, specifically participant’s understanding of bullying and cyberbullying, and their reaction to being involved in or witnessing bullying incidents. One hundred and eighty-one first and second year students at Mount Saint Vincent University who were enrolled full-time in an arts, science or professional program completed a researcher designed questionnaire. The majority of the participants were female (76.9%) between the ages of 18 and 20. Qualitative analysis, using a modified grounded theory approach, was used to analysis participants’ responses to open ended questions. Quantitative data analysis of dichotomous items was limited to the calculation of means, ranges, and percentages. As the number of participants in the gender, age, university program, and ethnic groups were so skewed, statistical comparisons were not feasible. Participants were divided fairly evenly by geographic region, but Chi square calculations revealed no statistically significant differences between the two groups. The majority of participants (63.9%) reported being bullied, 26.7% reported bullying others and 82.2% reported witnessing bullying incidents. They also had a good understanding of what constitutes bullying, noting that it went beyond physical harm, typically occurred more than once, and was usually intentional. Interventions, unfortunately, only took place 20.5% of the time and of these, slightly over half were viewed as effective in stopping bullying acts. Many reasons for both bullying and stopping bullying behaviours revolved around peer influence; bullies sought peer acceptance via bullying others, and ceased behaviours when peers did not provide the desired attention. Another explanation given for bullying was the bully seeking an increase in self worth and to feel better about themselves by making others feel worse. These results suggest that increasing peer intervention and decreasing peer approval may be an effective method to aid in the discontinuation of bullying behaviours. The results of this study also suggest that an effective preventative approach may be to find other means of increasing potential perpetrator’s self esteem and confidence.
Bullying , Cyberbullying , University students