The links between school bullying and mugging and there affects on individuals lives
Is it possible that school bullying and mugging are closely linked? If so, can they have permanent side – effects on an individual’s life? Too tall, too short, too fat, too thin…. I hate my hair… I need a better car… I can’t wear that dress as I wore it last week…. these are the questions I faced the other morning, the silly thing is that I am confident that millions of other people are waking up and lobbying mini arguments within their minds of similar matters. But why are these matters so important?
A very open question, yet in all generalisation can be linked to the word SOCIETY. Blumer (1969) identifies this as noted below: “Basically human behaviour is not determined by social forces. Rather, people are simply self – conscious beings… ” He states that due to ones self consciousnesses, questions similar to the ones asked above arise. The self consciousness of an individual is induced by those labels attached to us through the sub cultures in which we exist. These are closely linked to our childhood educational experiences.
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Control theory implies that social services will decrease levels of deviant behaviour by strengthening the bond between the adolescent and society. Labelling theory implies the reverse, that the process of formal adjudication through the juvenile court will first stabilize and then increase levels of deviant behaviour. Diversion programs were originally developed as an application of labelling theory, with the objectives of minimizing involvement with the juvenile court, referring adolescents to less stigmatizing social services, and ultimately reducing levels of deviant behaviour.
An additional issue has been the effect of gender on service delivery to adolescents in the juvenile justice system. This paper examines these four issues using panel data and multiple regression of follow-up on baseline variables. The term ‘bullying’ refers not only to physical and verbal abuse, but psychological attacks intended to inflict fear, distress and to physically harm the victim (Farrington, 1993). Extensive research into the bullying/victim relationship shows that there are two distinct groups (or subcultures).
For example, Olweus (1991) found that only one bully in ten was also a victim, while only one victim in eighteen was also a bully (taken from Fishman, Mesch, Eisikovits, 2002). This assumption shows that victims and offenders originate from different parts of society and are in fact judged upon popularity and peer acceptance rather than merit. In fact personal merit i. e. educational achievements, alongside social and physical appearance (Salmivalli, 1998) can turn an ordinary individual into a victim within an educational setting.
In comparison, perpetrators saw themselves as being physically fit and popular among their peer group. Those who were victims were often those who felt unpopular and lacked the social skills to form peer relationships. According to Farrington (1993), Adolescents who lack good friends have no support when exposed to an offender’s aggressive behaviour. The term ‘mugging’ refers to a psychological fear and possible physical attack on a victim. When pupils are constantly being assessed and classified, it is on this basis that they are defined as able or less able.
Then placed accordingly in particular sets or streams, entered for particular examinations and given or denied access to certain parts of the school curriculum. Teachers are more likely to define middle rather than working class pupils as the ‘able bodies’, the ‘good students’ and the ‘well – behaved’ based on first impressions or certain stereo-types such as a middle class family is more likely to take interest in there child’s education. This in turn disadvantages the working class pupils. A label is a major identifying characteristic.
If for example, a pupil is labelled as ‘bright’, others will respond to him/her and interpret their actions in terms of this label. There is a tendency for self – fulfilling prophecy to result. The pupil will only act in terms of the label and see themselves as bright, thus fulfilling the prophecy others have made. Muggings are thought of, at times, worse than bullying as the ordeal can leave a psychological scar in the way that person may perceive people in the future. The level of this can vary depending on the loss of items or the ordeal itself.
All these factors will cause the victim to look at people in a different way, or even change their own behaviour in the future, asking themselves questions like ‘should I take this much money with me? ‘ or ‘should I tuck this chain in? ‘. Bullying is most commonly thought of as occurring in classrooms but unfortunately has a lasting effect on ones development from adolescence to adulthood to the outside world. It is the ‘name calling’ and constant ‘teasing’ that makes the individual being bullied i. e. the victim, begin to turn into themselves and think about who they really are.
They create questions and insecurities within their own thoughts, as to why they in particular have been singled out as the ‘odd one’ that does not ‘fit in’. Questions such as what are they calling me, why are they calling me by such names and what factors of myself do I need to change to avoid being called the latter… (Which takes us back to the very beginning of this analysis) … Too tall, too short, too fat too thin…. I hate my hair… I need a better car… I can’t wear that dress as I wore it last week…. The creation of society!
If bullying and mugging were earthquakes, the understanding of the epicentre is imperative, the two tectonic plates grinding, causing the earthquake, would be the Labelling theory and Subculture theories. These two theories lend a hand in explaining how and why anti social behaviour such as bullying may arise and its effects on society at large. The Sub cultural theory suggests that society is made up from several sub cultures that can each be defined by their own set of values and norms, separate from those of the wider society.
Members within a sub culture share common values and have similar behavioural patterns, often based around social characteristics, such as ethnicity or styles generated by individuals within a sub culture. Sub cultures usually share some features with the host culture, but may also be oppositional to it. Sub cultural theories attempt to explain why these groups, most of which are concerned with ‘youth gangs’ and gang delinquency, engage in deviant acts. The theories also analysed the formation of delinquent youth subcultures within the context of strains and pressures exerted by society.
According to Cohen (1955) sub cultures are formed within an educational setting due to status deprivation. This is where a desirable ‘status’ such as being popular or accepted by peer groups would be sought after by students and invariably be found through creating a sub culture. For those individuals where status was denied, Cohen (1955) again suggesting this to be a direct result of failure by the educational system leading to failure at work, status deprivation was resolved by the formation of primary groups (the most common form of which was gangs) (Cohen, 1955).
By creating specific sub cultures, members, predominately young males, allowed themselves to achieve status positions within a structured group therefore satisfying their desire for some form of status (Cohen, 1955). These sub cultures often resulted to violent and aggressive behaviour towards their peer groups, taunting and victimising other youths, both physically and psychologically. Cohen claimed that if the educational system were to allow an alternative outlet for such status satisfaction, then the need to create a sub culture would be destroyed thus avoiding the anti social behaviour such as bullying.
Using Cohen’s ideas, it can be said that a bully will be looking for a desirable status. The mugger can be seen as one of these subgroups, and can be seen as a subgroup of bullying (taking it one step further by taking someone else’s possessions) or as a subgroup of a gang (where the act is carried out within a group). It is possible for this to give the individual, or an individual within a group, a certain level of status and gained acceptance within a group.
Where the Sub cultural theory attempts to explain bullying as a result of social definitions and status, interactionsists suggest that this is not the case. Interactionism, according to Blumer (1969) indicates three central beliefs that characterise social behaviour. Firstly, ‘human beings act towards things on the basis of the meaning that things have for them’. This means that human behaviour is not determined by social forces but rather that people are simply self conscious beings. Secondly, ‘the meaning of things is derived from, or arises out of the social interaction that one has with one’s fellow’s’.
Here Blumer (1969) suggests that meanings are not fixed but are continually tailored and adjusted as individuals integrate with one another. Thirdly, ‘group action takes the form of a fitting together of individual lines of action’. Thus society is not so much a determinant of human action as a product of human activity. Social order is therefore inherently fragile, as it is highly dependant on shared, miscellaneous meanings. So the Interactionism idea would explain mugging as the 1st central belief, ‘human beings act towards things on the basis of the meaning that things have for them’.
Thus saying, that a mugger may carry out their act based on what they will gain from it, which could be anything from increased wealth to other possessions. An alternative would be that the person only carries out a mugging based on meanings that are adjusted, such as the person will have carried out the mugging based on a new circumstance or new scenario, which would not have been the case the day, week or year before. Already it is clear to see how these two theories present opposing explanations to bullying and mugging.
On one hand the sub cultural theory claims that there are rigid norms and values within society, forcing individuals to comply with the rules. It implies that those who do not conform or are deprived the chance to gain social recognition and desired statuses within society are forced to create their own group in which they can achieve status satisfaction. On the other hand, interactionism argues there are no fixed rules but rather ever changing, shared values that are dependent upon social interaction.
It suggests that the extent of bullying and mugging is dependent upon how individuals interact within society. From interactionism stems a new approach which once initiated is widely known as the Labelling theory. The classic formation of this theory is that of Howard Becker 63′, who said ‘.. The central fact about deviance (is that) it is created by society. I do not mean this in the way it is ordinarily understood, in which the causes of deviance are located in the social situation of the deviant or in “social factors” which prompt his action.
Rather, those social groups create deviance by making the rules whose infraction constitution deviance and by applying those rules to particular people and labelling them as outsiders. From this point of view, deviance is not a quality of the act the person commits but rather a consequence of the application by others of rules and sanctions to an “offender”. The deviant is one to whom that label has successfully been applied – deviant behaviour is behaviour that people so label’. Howard Becker 63′ Labelling and bullying both occur simultaneously throughout levels in schools.
For example, the breakdown of a ‘typical’ classroom layout is that of many diversities and similarities at the same time. There are two different approaches when discussing the relationship between social cognition and social behaviour, and specifically, between emotion and bullying. An information-processing model which shows how aggressive behaviour as resulting from processing biases in one or more steps in a 5 stages social information process (Dodge, Pettit, McClaskey and Brown, 1986; Dodge and Feldman, 1990; Crick and Dodge, 1994).
It is this theory when applied to bullies and victims that this social skill deficit model tells us that bullies do in fact have similar deficits to aggressive children. However the victims, on the other hand, lack these social skills of assertiveness and group entry. As a direct result, this in turn means they have less experience in social interaction, in the teasing and play fighting which both in family and peer relationships, may enhance the interpretation processes of emotional expression, social skills, sense of control and self-efficacy (Smith, Bowers, Binney and Cowie, 1993).
Labelling and mugging occur early on, during school. For example, the mugger is grouped as being from a poor family or labelled as a ‘trouble maker’ by their elders. Giving the child a negative image and possible loss in their confidence to perform to what ‘society’ expects. The muggers’ emotion can vary; one could say that they lack any compassion to their victim and only have their eyes on their reward. But from another perspective, one could say that the mugger may feel compassion but due to the circumstances they are in, they feel like this would be their only solution.
Advocates of this power-based theory (i. e. bullies simply bullying others around them to gain power over other less superior individuals than themselves), argue that bullies’ desire for power or control is often strengthened by various social stereotypes about bullying including the negative reinforcement of the media (see the earlier discussion on social tolerance of bullying). It is has been said that bullies behaviour is cold and manipulative and that they are experts in social contexts.
The problem of their behaviour can be directly related to the many emotions that surround moral transgression such as guilt and shame. Can it then be questioned as to whether; bullies actually understand other children’s emotions but simply do not share them; thus lacking in empathy? Or perhaps they merely are unable to identify the suffering and pain in the victims and therefore they lack social skills? How do they feel during a bullying episode? Can and do bullies feel great for having been tough or have they the human emotion of guilt and feeling responsible for what they have done?
If labelling exists within the educational system, and we have seen above how it is valid, then it is not only the behaviour of the bully and mugger that must be reprimanded but that of those who attach these labels. Looking at the educational system, it appears that those in authority, like teachers and others working alongside schools and the pupils inflict these labels upon them. By labelling these individuals, teachers will group these individuals into categories or boxes, thus causing divisions and a hierarchy within the class, and the educational system as a whole.
This is because individual will tend to act according to the labels attached to them, thus fulfilling a self fulfilling prophecy. So from this we can see that there is a link between muggers and bullies. It can be seen that both want, in most cases, some level of status or acceptance and that both are categorised and labelled. Any individual that experiences either of these will also be left with psychological scars, which in-turn will change the victim in the way they behave or perceive things. The perception and behavioural changes are not likely to change with ease, and could possibly be detrimental to the individual.
Social identity argues that social cooperation is a product of activation of a social identity. Social identity can be thought of as the psychological link between the self and the collective, in this case the school community. Through social identification, the school becomes a positive reference group for the pupil. When a student identifies with the school community, he or she sees themselves as interdependent with this community and he or she behaves cooperatively, upholding the school’s rules and values.
Tyler 1998, made a similar point. He argued that there were two inter-related aspects to self-worth: the collective and the individual. The collective aspect is reflected in pride in being a member of a school community, in terms of education. The individual aspect is reflected in having respect within this community. Tyler said, “As self-worth within a community increases in terms of pride and respect, social cooperation within that community also increases”.
In other words, what each of us does is strive for a sense of belongingness and significance. Not only meeting our individual needs, but becoming a member of a positive reference group is also importance to us in society. After all, we are social animals. Work by Eliza Ahmed and her colleagues (2000) suggest that one barrier that needs to be addressed is the affective barrier associated with shame. The shame associated with a harmful act acts as a barrier to us thinking of ourselves as a fully integrated member of a community.
Indeed, recent findings have shown that shame-management has been found to be an important mediating variable in the understanding of bullying and victimization (Ahmed et al. , forthcoming). The maintenance of bonds is mutually related to emotion: emotions are a means of cohesion. Nathanson (1992) has also argued that shame is the central social regulator that governs our social relations with others. Shame, as such, is closely connected with solidarity (in group cooperation) and alienation (out group competition).
Humans are inherently social animals; lapses in important social bonds affect us as individuals. Threatened or damaged bonds create an environment for shame. A long period of unacknowledged shame arises from and generates failure of social connectedness as stated by Retzinger, 1991. Shame can be conceptualised as a thermostat; if it fails to function informatively about the state of our social relationships, regulation of relationships becomes impossible. Thus, shame is an important signal about the state of our social relationships.
Shame management involves the search for coherence of identity. Acknowledgment of shame can lead to a greater integrity of the self and our social world; shame avoidance can lead to social alienation and conflict with the self and our social world. To conclude, it is safe to say that the links between school bullying and mugging and their affects on individual’s lives are very prominent, and it seems both issues are here to stay in the twenty first century. It seems studies have shown that both bullying and mugging can have permanent side – effects on an individual’s life.
However, it would appear that if these bullies had not been boxed into groups, thus they would not fulfil their prophecy. Batsche and Knoff (1994) assert that the goal of creating safe schools cannot be achieved unless the issue of bullying is adequately addressed. In order to fully examine the issue of bullying, one would need to pay close attention to the structure of determinants of bullying from personal to social factors; focusing on various forms of relationships that exist in not only our personal lives but in our social lives.
For example, relationships between bullies and families, schools and society; all affect the way we behave. It is these other relationships among the victims, bullies and bystanders; as well as relationships between counsellors and other school staff, that are all working together as a team combat bullying. These two theories have shown in this discussion that school bullying and mugging are linked and that bullying can only lead to far worse behavioural problems in the future – both physical and mental.