Student Disposition-Personality: Determinants of Right or Wrongdoing (page 3)
Are there personality "traits" or dispositions that predispose some youth toward inappropriate behavior? If so, can we determine what these traits are to help prevent, identify, and/or alter them before serious and irreversible consequences occur?
Alcohol, Drug Abuse, and Violence
Research indicates a strong relationship between drinking and violent crime. Aggression and heavy drinking may be associated in the same people (McMurran, 1999). A longitudinal study was undertaken to examine the childhood and adolescent personality determinants of young-adult drug use. The conclusions of this study were that the personality characteristics remained stable from childhood to adolescence. Despite this personality stability, other results suggested ways to modify drug use (Brook, "Whiteman, Cohen, Shapiro, & Balka, 1995).
Proclivity toward Violence
In order for students to fulfill their potential, The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) (2004) summarizes data based on indicators of school crime and safety. As of 2004, for example, the following statistics were collected on such topics as victimization, fights, bullying, classroom disorder, teacher injury, weapons, and student perceptions of school safety. The following are the key findings of the report.
Violent deaths—Although considerable press has been devoted to school shootings, youth, ages 5 to 19, are much safer at school than away from school. From July 1, 1999, through June 2000, there were 32 school-associated violent deaths reported in the United States. Twenty-four of these violent deaths were homicides; eight were suicides. Only 1 percent of the homicides of children ages 5 to 19 occurred at school. Away from school, there were a total of almost 2,000 suicides of children ages 5 to 19 during the 2000 calendar year.
Nonfatal student victimization: student reports—Although the victimization rate for students ages 12 to 18 generally declined both at school and away from school between 1992 and 2003, no difference was detected between 2001 and 2002 in total crime rate, the rate of theft, or the rate of violent victimization either at or away from school. Conclusion: The trend stays fairly consistent both at and away from school for nonfatal student victimization.
Student perception of safety—Nationally, five percent of youth said they missed at least one day of school the past month because they had felt unsafe at school or when traveling to or from school (NCES, 2004). Although most crimes at the elementary school level (compared with secondary school levels) were relatively less serious incidents, such as fistfights, vandalism, or theft, about 4 percent of elementary principals and 19 percent of middle school principals reported at least one serious crime during the year such as rape or other types of sexual battery, physical fights or attacks with weapons, or robbery. In 1997, more than 100,000 students brought weapons to school daily (Kaufman, Walker, & Sprague, 1997). With zero tolerance for weapon possession in many schools among all ages of youth, the current data of weapon possession is drastically reduced. The Center for Safe Schools has compiled a resource guide on school-based strategies to assist in prevention and response to threats of violence.
CNN reported a study by Price (2001) in which about 550 Midwestern middle school students were interviewed regarding bullying behavior. The results were disconcerting.
- Eighty percent said they acted like bullies at least once a month. Their behavior included physical aggression, social ridicule, teasing, name calling, and issuing threats. Earlier reports indicated about 15 percent.
- "A lot more goes on in junior high than the teachers or supervisors really know about," said one girl (Espelage, 1999).
- "Different" kids are likely targets. When one boy was asked why he thought he was picked on, he replied, "because I'm fat" (Espelage, 1999).
- "Kids don't have the skills to stop it. They also fear that if they try, attention will turn to them," according to a psychologist (Espelage, 1999).
Why do students bully? "It's fun," said one unrepentant bully. "These kids, they're like helpless—I mean they've got the big glasses and the fat stomachs" (Espelage, 1999). School shootings have spotlighted bullying behavior. The shooters in these tragedies complained that they were treated like social outcasts. There is a concern that by ignoring bully behavior, parents, teachers, and school administrators are in essence condoning it. Bullying is not just a normal part of growing up. Several resources exist that give parents and educators the simple language to explain to their child/student what a bully is and what to do about it.
According to the literature, cheating has become a serious problem among Americans attending school in today's society (Puett, 2004). It is most prevalent at the college level. There, however, have been numerous reports of cheating incidents occurring at the high school level. Because it is such a serious problem, Puett's study attempted to determine at what age children begin to recognize what cheating is and the age at which they begin cheating themselves. In this study, first through sixth grade students attending two schools of different socioeconomic status participated. The student participants listened to a survey consisting of six scenarios dealing with different aspects of cheating and dishonesty. From the data collected, distinct differences between child's responses at each elementary school and grade level occurred. The results indicated that children who attended the lower socioeconomic school were more likely to view cheating behaviors as being okay. Fewer children attending the higher socioeconomic status school viewed cheating behaviors as acceptable. As children grew older, they were less likely to view cheating behaviors as acceptable. Although more studies are needed, the value of identifying possible determinants could lead to a way of prevention.
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