Bullying: Understanding Attitudes toward Bullying and Perceptions of School Social Climate (page 2)

By , and — Bullying Special Edition Contributor
Updated on Feb 11, 2009

What We Found

  • Not surprisingly, we found that bullies and bully-victims (students who both bully others and are bullied themselves) reported the most pro-bullying attitudes, indicating that they supported bullying behavior.
  • Those students who were victimized by others and those who witnessed the bullying (bystanders) were the least supportive of bullying.
  • In examining school climate, those students who were not involved in bullying tended to report the most positive views of the environment compared to those students involved in bullying.
    • Students involved in bullying were not significantly different from each other, though bullies and bully-victims tended to report the least favorable view of school climate. 
  • As perceptions of positive school climate increased, pro-bullying attitudes decreased. Those students who reported pro-bullying attitudes tended to have a more negative view of school climate, which is the same pattern that has been found in other research from this longitudinal study (6, 7). A conclusion that can be drawn from these findings is that student perceptions of school climate may be an indicator of the effectiveness of a school’s response to bullying.

Implications and Take Home Points for Teachers and Schools

First, it is important that schools conduct self-assessments to determine the prevalence of bullying in that environment and to identify those students who are most likely to be involved in or to witness bullying. This can also provide information about the effectiveness of school policies and staff responses to bullying. Students in our research often reported that they were unaware of the school policy on bullying and that they were unsure of staff responses to bullying. This is not unique to our findings; other research (8) has demonstrated similar findings. When a teacher does not intervene to stop victimization, he or she is communicating the acceptability of bullying to students. Students who perceive a school (or classroom) climate that is tolerant of bullying behavior are less likely to report being bullied (8). Second, interventions delivered at the individual, classroom, and school level would be beneficial to students and to staff. Listed below are some suggestions for intervention strategies that can be used to address bullying at all three levels to address school climate concerns, attitudes towards bullying, and other areas of concern in relation to bullying.

For Individuals:

  • Take all reports of bullying seriously and intervene quickly.
  • Model pro-social (e.g., cooperation, perspective-taking, and empathy) behaviors for bullies and bully-victims.
  • Considering that bullying can lead to social, emotional, and psychological problems (9), individualized counseling services for students involved in bullying can be beneficial. Specifically, students can be provided with assertiveness training, social-skills interventions, or referrals for community counseling services to address more significant concerns such as internalizing problems such as depression and anxiety (10).

For Classrooms:

  • Educate students about bullying and the effects of bullying and discuss ways that students can appropriately handle bullying situations whether they are the victim or a bystander (i.e., they witness a bullying incident) to demonstrate a climate that does not tolerate bullying (10, 11).
  • Create a warm and inclusive classroom climate that demonstrates a commitment to anti-bullying policies. This has been shown to reduce pro-bullying attitudes among peers (10). Research has also demonstrated that positive interactions between students and teachers have been found to decrease involvement in bullying; whereas negative interactions have been shown to actually increase the likelihood for involvement in bullying behaviors (12).
  • Create an open-door policy for all students and clearly identify adults to whom bullying incidents should be reported and follow-up with students after a bullying incident has been reported so that students know that action has been taken.
  • Develop a student code of conduct (or rules against bullying) and clearly discuss this with students at the classroom and school levels (11). Use incentives such as classroom competitions to encourage adherence to the code of conduct (e.g., teachers and staff can nominate students who demonstrate behavior in accordance with the code of conduct).
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