Bullies: A Qualitative Studies Among Adolescents In High School
Bullying can be described as systematic abuse of power. There will always be power relationships in social groups, by virtue of strength or size or ability, force of personality, sheer numbers or recognized hierarchy. Bullying can occur in many context, it is particularly likely to be a problem in social groups with clear power relationships and low supervision. While not denying the importance of other contexts for bullying, school bullying perhaps arouses particular revulsion because the problem is so general, it can affect anyone as a child and because children do not have the rights and awareness of rights that adult have. (Sonia and Peter, 2002).
There are two types of method that bullies use to cause pain on their victims. One is the normal type of bullying, old school bullying method, and the other is referred to as cyberbullying or internet bullying. Hinduja and Patchin (2010) referred to cyberbullying as the “non-traditional” form of peer aggression.
Traditional bullying has been around for ages. This type of bullying principally takes place in a school setting. Another term used of bullying, is peer victimization. Peer victimization is the experience that one receives due to the being a target of the aggressive behaviour of others (Klomek, Marrocco, Kleinman, Schonfeld, & Gould, 2008). According to Klomek et al.’s research, they came to the conclusion that suggested of two different types used in the traditional bullying of a person. These types are labelled as, direct victimization, and indirect victimization.
Direct victimization, as Klomek describes, is the use of diverse physical and verbal treatment of bullies to the victims. Physical abuse example is kicking, hitting, stealing, and playing nasty tricks and verbal abuse example is threatening, name calling, insulting, spreading rumours, teasing and blackmailing.
Indirect victimization is the use of aggression that is enacted through third parties. The use of social isolation is common in this style of victimization. Social isolation is the effect of ignoring, excluding, and gossiping about a person. Behaviours that cause or threaten peer relationships such as friendships and acceptance of others are also included in this style of victimization.
In the same way as traditional bullying victimizes youth and teenager, cyberbullying has now become a very common method of victimization in this modern era. As Lenhert asserts, “Bullying has entered the digital age. The impulses behind it are the same, but the effect is bigger” (Lenhert, 2007). This means that the effects in this type are much worse than traditional bullying. A study done by Hinduja and Patchin (2010), define the term cyberbullying as “Willful and repeated harm inflicted through the use of computers, mobile phones, and other electronic devices with the use of internet.” They over accentuate the words “willful,” “repeated,” and “harmful”. The behaviour of bullying has to be intentional, not accidental. This behaviour also has to reflect a pattern of bullying, not just isolated incidents. Lastly, the target must perceive that harm was inflicted upon them. Causing harm can be affected in both physical, and mental aspects. Eventually, it is only through the use of all of these characteristics can events be labelled as bullying,
Cyberbullying includes activities such as receiving threatening messages, having their private emails or text messages forwarded without consent, having an embarrassing picture posted without permission, or having rumours about them spread online (Lenhert, 2007). Other actions include stalking, ignoring, or disrespecting a person (Hinduja ; Patchin, 2010).
There are many hypothesis that has been stated regarding the reasons on why some adolescents engage themselves in the bullying behavior. Some of these include the sense of belonging, social status, family dynamics, victim provocation and the physical appearance of victims.
To feel the sense of belonging and to be accepted by other people is one of the most basic reason that underlies the human behaviour according to the psychological and sociological perspectives (Honnest, 1995; Maslow, 1970) and another one which also dates back to Bowlby’s attachment theory of the need to form and maintain relationships. (Bowlby, 1969; 1973). It has been shown researches that this area suggested that some children have possibly engage in aggressive behaviour in order to not feel left out of their peer group (Owens, Shute & Slee, 2000).
A close link to this is the concept of social status in which of the particular importance during childhood and adolescence (Nation, Vieno, Perkins & Sanitenello, 2008). It is suggested that bullying might encompass varying levels of power, that is explicit power or behaviour resulting in submission, fear and implicit power which is gained by the way of one’s status, influence and competence (Vailliancourt, Hymel, ; McDougall, 2003).
Other interesting hypothesis in explaining bullying behavior is that the result of being influenced by their families is why adolescents has engaged in this behaviour. A parental power imbalance was also one of the reasons that bullies may have experience in where the father holds the power (Stevens, De Bourdeaudhuij, ; Van Oost, 2008). Also other associations have been found is that enforced rules which encourages aggressive behaviour is applied in families (Riclan, Klicperrova, ; Koucka, 1993). Additionally, poor communication in families has been found in families of male bullies (Rigby, 1994).
Boulton and Underwood (1992) found that the most common response by bullies when questioned of their behaviour was that the victim provoked them. It is shown that the response to the question ‘why do some adolescents bully others?’ It was mentioned and stated that the bully has problems, low self-esteem, is jealous of their victim, lacks respect, annoyed with the victim and lastly they bully due to peer pressure. Bully had low self-esteem was found to be the least popular response.It was also noted that in addition to physical provocation there is also the dimension of relational provocation in the form of someone threatening a social relationship (Dirks, Treat, ; Weersing, 2007; Rose ; Rudolph, 2006).
Additionally, the victim’s physical appearance has also been noted as another hypothesis explaining bullies’ behavior. A study of particular interest was a follow up from an original Swedish longitudinal study that was conducted with 10-year-olds (Erling ; Hwang, 2004). This study found that 10-year-old children reported that a difference in someone’s appearance could result in bullying. A later follow-up study when the participants were 13-years-old reported that similar results were found (Frisen, Jonsson, & Persson, 2007). Males compared to females were more likely to say that the victim’s physical appearance was the reason for them being bullied (Frisen, Holmqvist, ; Oscarsson, 2008).
Thus, from those reasons we can find out what the bullies accomplished from bullying. Firstly, from bullying, the bullies have a sense of belonging and a place to belong within their social circle. There are many instances where bullies are involved in such indecent activities just so that they can be included in a group with a higher “social rankings”.
Adding to that, the environment at home also plays a crucial role in bullying. The adolescents’ mimics the acts that they had seen at home and applies it at school where bullying take place. From these, the high-schoolers get a sense of familiarity as the actions they did was an indirect synonym of what had been happening at home.
Next, the bullies increases their self-esteem from bullying they had done. These adolescents are in the age where their hormones are unstable, thus inducing more mental related cases like anxiety and insecurity. Bullying had been found to be an outlet for them to be more relieved of themselves.
We can also observe is that how bullies made bullying as a platform for them to show their power upon others which is the reason they picked on victims that were afraid and wouldn’t dare to stand up for themselves, a more fragile and lesser being, which were the easier prey.
The society plays a huge role in bullying as being said to be the third persona in a case of bullying. Bystanders or the society can vary from teachers, parents and friends. Unfortunately, for someone to be able to intercept and stop bullying, one must first know and be able to identify on what is bullying.
According to Justin Lee, Cowlin (2010) society have a hard time in defining what is bullying and to what degree does it becomes too bad. From his writings, the teacher’s perception towards the bullies are majority of male teachers failed to illustrate the outcome upon the target as an important component when defining bullying which, may suggest a tendency among the male teachers to define bullying in terms of the actions of the perpetrator rather than the effects upon the victim.
After that, 80% of all adolescent boys failed to explain bullying in terms of a repeated action. Furthermore, none of the respondents illustrated an awareness of the effect a single negative or bad action may have for the target, especially in the case whereby the target suffers from fear of his wrongdoer’s actions over an extended period of time.
They failed to recognize the abuse of power in favour of the perpetrator, whether that develops from a physical superiority such as size, strength, strength in number of persons supporting the bully, or psychological strength such as social status, social capability and mental strength. Furthermore, all of the respondents failed to illustrate the effect upon the target as an important component when defining bullying (Olweus, 1997).
Next, for the adolescent girls illustrated an understanding for the concept of an imbalance of power when exemplifying their perceptions of bullying. They did not however, fare as well when illustrating the dynamics of bullying and only one girl described bullying in terms of a repetitive negative action.
Moreover, the girls in contrast to the boys were far more descriptive in their definitions of bullying behaviour and exemplified a far greater understanding of direct physical, direct verbal yet more importantly indirect forms of abuse. In addition, girls expressed a marginally better understanding of the effect of gender upon bullying behaviour.
Besides that, in parent’s point of view, they illustrated bullying in terms of an indirect (spreading of malicious rumours, social exclusion, use of social networks, messages) and or direct verbal behaviour. Encouragingly, almost all respondents exemplified an understanding for gender related difference in bullying behaviours between boys and girls.
2.0 PROBLEM STATEMENT
Bullying can be described as a way of treating people unkindly with the intent of showing one’s domination upon others. Indirectly, it make the victims feel weak and vulnerable other than respect the bullies. In other words, bullying is an “aggressive behavior”, which can be either physically, verbally or socially, performed repeatedly to a victim that aims to make them feel uncomfortable, insecure, and isolated from those around them. Overall, bullying is a negative attitude: it makes other people into victims and may cause illness and discomfort to others. (Khalim ; Norshidah, 2007)
Bullying usually is a show of strength among peers to differentiate them from others. Through bullying, the bullies felt that they are far superior from other cliques and that made them feel good especially in school. School bullies are usually derived by their form. It is a norm to see in Malaysia where there is a social hierarchy in age group. As an example, form 5 tend to feel like they are the king of school since they are the main heads. They will prey on their junior to fulfill their unnecessary demand.
The relevance of the chosen topic is determined by the fact that today the problem of bullying in school, specifically High School becomes wider, affecting all parts of the school. Teenage years are very important for them to cultivate their social skills and bullying might hinder that.
C.M. Arora (1994) calls bullying the actions that are observable and have a place in the communication between young people at school and are the cause of resentment and stress.
There is quite a wide variety of bullying and it can be classified from physical, verbal and social bullying. With the advancement of technology, it allows the bullying acts to be committed easier with little to no attachments through the use of social media.
Therefore, we would like to know the cause of this attitude among high school bullies and their obsessions with bullying. Do they feel it is their right to bully the victim just because they are older in age or do they feel it is compulsory to somehow show their domination by making an example out of their juniors.
To study types of bullying adolescents do.
To understand the reasons why adolescents commit bullying.
To know what the bullies accomplished from bullying.
To know how people surrounding them responds to their behaviour.
4.0 SCOPE OF RESPONDENT
Bullying in school is an issue that continues to receive attention from researchers, educators, parents, and students. This study focuses not only on the prevalence of bullying, but also on the bullies contemplations in their past bullying acts.
Our scope of correspondent that we intent to approach are mostly teenagers that has a record of bullying in school.
There are many different methods of bullying that can be done by bullies like mentioned before such as direct victimization also known as physical bullying, indirect victimization also known as verbal bullying, social and cyber bullying. Physical bullying examples is kicking, hitting, stealing, and playing nasty tricks. Physical bullying causes both short term and long-term damage. Verbal bullying includes threatening, name calling, insulting, spreading rumors, teasing and blackmailing, intimidation, homophobic or racist remarks, or verbal abuse. While verbal bullying can start off harmless, it can increase to the levels which start affecting the individual target.
Social bullying, sometimes referred to as covert bullying, is often harder to recognize and can be carried out behind the bullied person’s back. It is designed to harm someone’s social reputation and cause humiliation. Social bullying includes lying, spreading rumors, negative facial or physical gestures, menacing or contemptuous looks, playing nasty jokes to embarrass and humiliate, mimicking unkindly, encouraging others to socially exclude someone and destroying someone’s social reputation or social acceptance.
Cyber bullying can happen at any instant. It can be in public or private and sometimes only known to the target and the person bullying. Cyber bullying can include abusive or hurtful texts emails or posts, images or videos, deliberately excluding others online, nasty gossip or rumors and Imitating others online or using their log-in.
Correspondent that we have gotten for our interview for this case study are only from 14-17 years old. Bullies that were selected from the school were mainly bullies that use physical and verbal type of bullying. The respondents that we got from outside of the school are much more varied in their types of bullying done.
Total respondents that we interviewed were 13 teenage, high school students. The school counselor selected 6 of them and 7 of them are high school students from other schools that volunteered to be interviewed. From to the result of the case study, the majority of bullies are male and a few are female.
5.0 RESULTS AND FINDINGS
During the interview of the respondents, few things can be observed right off the bat. First is the number of male bullies are the majority which overwhelm the number of female bullies from our number of respondents. Second is how the most used form of bullying is verbal bullying with almost every one of the respondent had confessed in committing that type of bullying.
Going through the data collected, the number one reason for bullying is for entertainment purposes. This had varied from self-satisfaction and for fun and games. Bullying under this pretext are mostly not harmful and only causes discomfort and lowers the victims’ self-esteem. This might be due to the nature of adolescents of being naughty and playful as they are still in a growing phase where they are still learning on the distinction between positive, acceptable moral behaviors and negative, unacceptable behaviors.
Few respondents said they had done this type of bullying almost in their daily basis. For them, these acts are purely for recreational purposes with no harm intention, thus justifying them to “bully”. Adding to that, this also can be observed to be the norm in our culture to mock or making fun of others. To entertain in the expense of others and we can see this from the words of one respondent, “Chill, its standard to make fun of others. One day we make fun of others and some other day, they make fun of us. No hard feelings there.”
A large number of the respondent also revealed that their bullying behavior can be credited to the influence of the environment as their reason. Many of them attributed their friends’ bullying behavior that influenced and encouraged them to commit bullying. Being dared to and persuaded by their friends, they commit bullying in order to fit in with the rest of their peers or they might get secluded socially or even worse, might be the one bullied.
One story of the respondent were that he was actually a victim of bullying before until he decided to bully someone else as his outlet from being bullying. Caught by one of the teacher, his name came up throughout the school as the new bully. Funnily enough, the group of bullies that bullied him before actually notices him and invited him to be part of their group and he was never bullied again since that day.
From the interviews, bullies that acted out bullying with malice intent with were the minority as they bullied out of hate and revenge. They resorted to many types of bullying in order to harm the victim both mentally and physically. Some confessed that this was their outlet to release stress as they had history with abuse. Through our examination of our respondents, these kinds of bullies usually came from a broken home where they have a dysfunctional family and this varied from divorced parents to an abusive father.
Then surprisingly enough there were only a single respondent professed to bully for resources like money. Bullying is a medium for the respondent to forcefully take money from the victims. This is because the bully were only exposed to this negative way to acquire money for personal needs like food and entertainment.
Now, comparing these answers on reasons for bullying that we got from our respondents to the journal on reasons why adolescents bully written by Courtney Wilton and Marilyn Campbell, they stated that there are four general reasons on why adolescents bullies. This had been stated in the introduction. From their journal, those reasons are as a need to belong (social status), influenced by family dynamics, victim provocation and victim’s physical appearance.
Our response acquired from the interviews says it slightly differently, there are four main reasons on why people bully and they are the influence of the environment, for entertainment purposes, resources (money) and to get revenge. Though our data from the interview is an insignificant piece of information as the number of respondents are minimal, it points out few things that weren’t mentioned in the journal.
The journal didn’t mentioned extortion, a mean of getting money by bullying though this could be because of how extortion and bullying are not exactly in the same area of study but this came up in our interview, thus leading us to believe that bullying is also a viable platform and medium for desperate adolescents to get money.
It is also quite interesting on how the main reason for bullying, pointed out by the respondents were not in the journal which is for entertainment purposes. This might also be due to the fact it doesn’t rank quite high in the degree of moral wrongdoings.
Nevertheless, all the other reasons were pretty much the same that overlaps each other even if it said or uttered differently, the gist are still the same.
Going through the variations of bullying that had been specified, the majority of the bullies had committed verbal bullying with almost every one of them had bullied verbally with the justifications of it being fun and entertaining. Another reason that gained our interest is that some of the bullies bullied verbally due to the fact that they don’t like hitting people. Assuming this is also because the bullies have no leverage to the victims in terms of physical domination by being the same or lower physical condition as their victims.
This was a hard one to define as verbal bullying is a lesser degree of bullying but bullying is bullying, no matter whether it is without malicious intent or not. Verbal bullying is the type of bullying that the effects are very hard to trace and track down as it is not visible thus making people to turn a blind eye.
Surprsingly, there were only few bullies that resorted to physical bullying. They said in the interview is because it is straight to the point with immediate effect. It is in some way, the traditional and the stereotypical way of bullying known.
Evidently, one respondent confessed that he was only joking around at first and only resorted to name-calling but when the victim fought back, the respondent felt challenged and got physical with the victim and added how he felt relieved and more satisfied.
Whilst physical bullying are a serious offence, the number of bullies that uses social type of bullying are greater. They were more inclined to it because it doesn’t leave evidence that can link them to bullying as there are no clear evidence and it is the easiest form of bullying, hence why it was chosen.
This type of bullying left the victim clueless on what they had done wrong and moreso when it was done suddely. This can affect the victim mental health as we know how social interaction are crucial and the fundamental need of a functional human being thus by devoiding them of social interaction they are withheld of he basic reason of human behaviour (Honneth, 1995; Maslow, 1970).
Lastly, all of the respondent confessed in bullying through the use of internet and said that it was because they are more comfortable bullying from a distance as it is more “safe” as the victims can’t retaliate physically which may harm them. This “safe” feeling that they felt was disinhibition. Disinhibition makes a person to concern less of their presentation and judgement to others (Joinson, 1998).
From this, we come up with the assumption that there are four types of bullying specifically physical, verbal, social and cyber bullying. Now this coincides with the journal that says how the are two types of bullying in general. The types that we proposed are included in the two types of bullying mentioned in the journal. The journal says that there are only two methods of bullying, the traditional way and cyberbullying. This is because every other type of bullying are under the traditional bullying as cyberbullying is a method that only comes up very recently with the rise of new media.
Associating with the their reason of bullying, the interview further probed into what the bullies accomplished from their actions and it is not surprising as a whopping majority of the bullies said that they got personal satisfaction through bullying. From these, they got themselves a form of entertainment in the expense of their victims which is quite disturbing.
The remaining few of the bullies were evenly segregated between to gain respect, power and as a way to earn money as what they had gained from bullying. Going back to the journal by Courtney Wilton and Marilyn Campbell, we can see how it overlaps in their accomplishment gained from bullying. These bullies bullied to gain a platform to show their power (increasing their social status), to have a place to belong, to increase their self-esteem though it slightly differs in the function of a broken home in regards to influencing bullying.
The journal explained how a dysfunctional family is mimicked by adolescents in their school but through our interviews, we found out that a broken family acts as a reason for these adolescents to lash out onto their peers as they have no power to change on what is going on at home, so these frustrations are exerted in the forms of bullying.
The next stage of our interview was to investigate society’s reaction towards bullying and the bullies’ awareness on the connotations linked with bullying. Shockingly, majority of the respondents are aware of the stigma that revolves around bullying and how society perceives them as bullies. Less than half of our respondents don’t have any clear indication of those negative perceptions and stigma.
This raised some questions as even though majority of our respondents knew of what is perceived about them, yet they are still committed to bullying. Although most of our respondents managed to give an answer but a majority of them viewed bullying as nothing serious and most of their actions are not enough to induce any bad effects towards the victims. A few of them were still committed to bullying as they view it necessary to carry out a grudge and to take revenge and also other sees it as an outlet or a viable medium to release stress, even with the negative stigma surrounding bullying.
It was found that from one of our respondent who said that they committed bully because they saw it as an unserious action and that made him continue with the bullying. “I did it because the victim never said anything or react to it and the next day when I meet him, he would look just alright.” This shows that because of the reaction that was given by the victim, the bully had no sense of guilt and never took his act serious and would continue it like it’s a daily activity that must be done. Because of not having the guiltiness in the bullying, it was more of an entertainment to him or also said by him, “I was just joking around with my friends.”
The society had always been the third figure in a bullying scenario where they hold the power to both take action and stop the bullying or be an observer, watching silently the bullying actions take place. This can be a friend, family members, or any authority figures like teachers and police officers. The society plays a major role in determining how a bullying case ends.
Thus, we included questions inquiring whether the society had upheld justice in our respondents’ cases. More than half of the respondents said that nobody ever asked them to stop other than the victims and some added that their environment, the society, actually encouraged them to do more of it. A minority of them had actually been asked to stop by the people around them. This includes all personas in the society as mentioned before.
From the respondents that have been asked to stop bullying, the majority of them did stop bullying with only very few did not stop. This shows how the society holds responsibility in interfering with any inappropriate behaviors.
When asked to the respondents whether during their bullying act, were there anyone around them that could have step forward to prevent the action or told them to stop? One of them answered, “there were a lot of people gathered, but no one tried to stop us.” In other words, it could be said that there were a lot of bystanders. For example, Olweus (1993) points out that some of the bystanders do not like the bullying but do not try to help the victim while others do try to help. It could be shown that may do not have the courage to stop the aggressive act. But in some other case, some bystanders do enjoy the bullying but do not show open support for the bully.
To be compared to the journal Conflicting Perceptions of Bullying, written by Justin Cowlin, indeed the society’s awareness and perception on bullying is still lacking where they failed to recognize the abuse of power in favour of the perpetrator whether that develops from a physical superiority or psychological strength. Also an important factor is that even some bystanders failed to illustrate the outcome upon the victim as an important component when defining bullying.
We had established before on how these bullies are still adolescents who might not know the length of what their actions can bring to other people. A great number of our respondents admitted of feeling bad and remorseful of their bullying acts done before. Unfortunately, they also added how it is the norm of life and growing up.
6.0 CONCLUSION AND DISCUSSION
Bullying is a repeating case in Malaysia and are more commonly found at schools, specifically high schools. This is because many of the high school students are still not aware of the damaging effects of bullying as they perceived bullying as a benign and harmless behavior that they see as a norm here in Malaysia.
As how it has been discussed earlier, bullying can be done in many forms whether physically or mentally and where it can bring its victims a lot of damages, however, still not many cases yet have been taken into consideration on the prevention of it and to understand why bullying happens and also what do the bullies gain from bullying. Additionally, there is still a big problem within the society on their awareness and understanding on bullying. They do not know how to react whether they should react to it or not and this issue needs to be solved immediately for the sake of the upcoming generation.
This conclusion is confirmed by how many respondents said that they bully because it is entertaining and as a fun activity even when the victims may suffer long term trauma from the bullying. Taking into account on how not enough people in the society that actually take actions to educate and make aware of these high school bullies, it is not surprising how bullying is considered as a norm in a place where the students were supposedly to be in a safe place where they can cultivate their social skills and talents, surrounded with positive influence guided by authoritarian figures like their teachers.
Thus, it can be concluded that adolescent bullies still do not apprehend the detrimental effects of bullying, be it big or small, towards their victims which is the leading cause of bullying case in Malaysian high schools.