In relatively recent years, research has shifted the focus from interpreting bullying as a dyadic problem involving only the perpetrator and the target, to look at bullying as a social phenomenon involving the larger group of peers, teachers, parents and the wider socio-cultural context (e.g., anti-bullying rules and regulations; societal norms; cultural beliefs).
The school environment, in terms of the quality of social bonds that students form in the school context, is likely to be in connection with children’s experiences of bullying. A recent research study conducted with a large sample of fourth and eighth-graders showed that students with a high sense of school belonging (the feeling of being part of a social group along with feeling accepted and valued by the members of that group) are less likely to be victimised. This study also showed that pupils’ perception that the school is a safe environment and that the other children are respectful of others and are inclined to follow the school rules are associated with low levels of bullying victimisation, though these findings hold true for fourth graders, but not for eighth-graders.
Some important messages can be drawn from these findings. To begin with, schools represent a context where children can fulfil their need for relatedness. When this need is fulfilled, they are less likely to be involved in bullying situations. Also, setting clear rules and building a safe environment for everyone could help, but might not be enough to tackle bullying; that is, more engaging activities and more intensive programmes are needed.
In conclusion, some contextual factors at the school level are strongly interrelated with children’s experiences of bullying victimisation at school. Bullying is a systemic problem, which requires the collaboration of various social actors in order to be tackled (i.e., teachers, parents, policymakers). One of the first steps to be taken to combat this phenomenon is increasing the awareness around the importance of building a safe school environment, where children have a strong sense of belongingness. This should be seen as a collective objective that all parties involved should be committed to achieve.
You can find out more about this study here: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10212-020-00514-0
This post is based on this recently published paper:
Pitsia, V., & Mazzone, A. (2020, online first). The association of individual and contextual variables with bullying victimisation: a cross-national comparison between Ireland and Lithuania. European Journal of Psychology of Education. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10212-020-00514-0