Teacher Perception: Bullying and Participation in Classes

Introduction

Bullying entails either physical or mental oppression that has been repeated for considerably long period of time. It is also characterized by misuse of certain given authorities in a harmonious relationship between or among several people. A bully person will tend to secure control of the victim, or the bullied person. Consequently, the victim is overly distressed as a result of such actions. While most literature on bullying as well as government policies have largely downplayed the effect of bullying especially on class participation and performance of learners, this vice poses a serious and complex social challenge. In practice, bullying problem surfaces itself in various dimensions depending on such factors as the gender of an individual, age bracket, social norms as well as technology.

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Conventionally, bullying has been correlated with aggressing individuals physically. However, empirical research suggests that youngsters have myriad of strategies that they can use to cause distress to their peers to the extent that the latter is unable to participate fully in class and more so, perform well. Although cyber bullying has emerged as one of the most recent hotly debated element in bullying, it is not of much interest in this research paper since the essay focuses on how bullying incidents affect both the participation and academic performance of students in class with cross reference to teacher’s perception.

The inability to express personal thoughts and experiences is often a growth and development characteristic among adolescents. This has been found to be cause by incompatibility between skills required for self regulation and fundamental drives. This mismatch often creates a scenario whereby young people cannot conceptualize the impact of their own actions against others. Indeed, the fact that bullying is more frequent during the later days of primary schooling can be explained by this view point. This is the point in their development cycle when this mismatch is at its optimum point. Owing to this growth factor, it can never be affirmed that bullying can be eradicated. However, this social vice can be minimized to some tolerable levels.

Nonetheless, it is pertinent to note that single government legislation may permit acts of bullying on the mere explanation that it is part of growth characteristics during adolescence. By fact, constitutional documents all over the world guarantees right to life; while bullying openly violates this provision. As already mentioned, the impact of bullying on class participation has largely been downplayed by most stakeholders especially in the education sector. In most cases, it has been ruled out as an inevitable part of growth and development. Unfortunately, a recent empirical research survey conducted on American youngsters between the ages of 8 and 15 revealed that this age group considers bullying as a precarious inhuman act, far much more than drug and substance abuse, illicit sex or even the stigmatizing effects of peer pressure or racism (Boehnke, 2008). in yet another quantitative research study conducted way back in 1996 among Australian youngsters, it found that the impacts of bullying was a real bother to one out of every six children that were interviewed. Needless to say, this was equally expected to downsize their class performance (Heaven & Ciarrochi, 2008; Monks et al., 2009).

These evidences, among others yet to be discussed, are enough proof that there is need to expedite and improve ant bullying measures enacted in schools. Failure to do this may as well result in low self esteem, stress, depression and poor participation and performance in academics. This paper offers a succinct discussion of how bullying can impact on the overall participation and class achievement of a learner within the perspective of a teacher who comprehends the learning needs of pupils.

Social and emotional factors

Before fully embarking on this discussion, it is vital to reiterate the fact all elements of classroom participation can be adversely affected if the learning and/or teaching environment is not conducive. Most past and recent literature on bullying highlights that bulling is more prevalent among young people at the school going age, and while this act may happen in any setting, it is commonly notable either at school or on the school routes.

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Youngsters who are heavily exposed to bullying are highly likely to malfunction as far school matters are concerned. For instance, they develop negative attitude towards schooling (Espelage & Swearer, 2008). As a result, individual subject performance may be seen to drop significantly as they attempt to marshal enough effort to strike a balance between their bullying peers and demanding academic work. Specifically, they may also find it relatively cumbersome to fully participate in most classroom activities such as group discussions and other team work exercises. Worse still, pupils who are affected most negatively may resort to absenteeism as a strategy of eluding the glaring reality of having to go through tormenting ordeal on a daily basis. Once they miss out school on the basis of being physically or psychologically tortured by their peers, they end up creating a vast academic gap between them and teachers, a scenario that only works towards worsening their performance in classroom environment.

In as far as participation is concerned, deficit in attention is a common syndrome among adolescents undergoing gross psychological problems associated with bullying. Once they lose the much needed attention during class participation and overall academic merit, they end up as failures; not because their mental prowess do not match the rest, but largely due to perturbed emotions since this is the point in time when they have to regulate both their emotional and behavioral patterns. In the long run, the victims’ capability to viably engage in learning is seriously hampered (Williams & Guerra, 2011).

Mental health complications are also another health concern that has continued to dog victims of bullying. To date, there is sufficient pool of evidence that clearly correlates psychological health problems with bullying experience that victims go through (Birkett, Espelage & Koenig, 2009).In particular, this has been found to be more conspicuous as the affected person transits into old age. However, the long term psychological impact is also dependent on the length of exposure to bullying ordeal. Further evidence obtained from longitudinal studies indicates that the impacts of victimization and bullying may be more pronounced during the later years of life (Ryan & Smith, 2009). Although pupil participation is adversely affected by bullying experiences, the bully is also considered to be emotionally unstable since this type of habit is deemed as a clear indicator of antisocial behavior yet to manifest itself in some years to come. Hence, both the victim and the culprit are at a higher risk of dropping in class participation and dwindling performance in academic work (Dijkstra, Lindenberg & Veenstra, 2008).

Social competence, health and general well being are adversely affected whenever a child or adolescent is subjected to bullying. Due et al. (2009) in their research study reiterate that there are myriad of long term consequences of bullying that have not been offered an in-depth study. In particular, the long term effects on psychological health are deemed to be disastrous by all costs. In the empirical research, a longitudinal study was used to correlate between childhood socioeconomic position and impacts of bullying such as stress and depression on an individual child. The association between victimization and effects of bullying were critically analyzed. In the hypothesis, the researchers presumed that socioeconomic status ad bullying are interlinked and closely tied to each other.

Using a multivariate analysis in a sample of 847 participants first in 1990 followed by another study in 2002 which encompassed 614 participants, the bullying symptoms of depression were examined. In particular, participants at the age of 27 years were integrated in this research study with a clear objective of determining how the development of depression could be triggered by repeated incidents of bullying and victimization. In the analysis, young adulthood was found to be highly vulnerable to the onset of depression among participants drawn from low socioeconomic backgrounds. One thing that could not be refuted was that high risk of depression was inevitable among bullied victims and the likelihood was increased by other factors such as gender. For instance, females were highly likely to be depressed than male respondents who took part in the survey.

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Bullying takes different forms contrary to the common belief that the victims have to be physically assaulted. Dukes, Stein & Zane (2009) hypothesized that there dysfunctional correlates of physical bullying may be equal or similar in impact to relational bullying. While relational buying takes a silent form and hardly noticed, physical bullying is quite conspicuous. Nonetheless, the impacts may be found to be parallel to each other.

In order to prove the hypothesis, the study utilized data from a sample of 2,494 respondents. These participants were drawn from Colorado in a school district. They were between grades 7 and 12. In the research study, the main aim was to give comparison to what is referred to as latent variables such as delinquency, school attitudes as well as self-esteem. These, among other variables, were considered to be imperative in the analysis since they were used as benchmarks in the study. Relational bullies who took part in the study totaled 291 whereas 303 victims were used in addition to another two hundred and thirteen bully victims. The remaining number from the total sample was neutrals. Gender was used as a variable for monitoring controls.

The research results were unanimous on quite a number of issues. For instance, those who were neutrals had the least bad attitude towards school. In addition, they posed the least challenge in managing discipline in school. In any case, the bullies were not likely to end up as bullies. On the other hand, the bully victims portrayed the worst results both in terms of managing their discipline standards and likelihood of being physically inured. Furthermore, the results were quite categorical on the fact that the neutral students were at the lowest risk of developing either psychosocial problems or being physically injured.

In another research survey, a sample of African-American youths were cross examined in a research study carried out by Fitzpatrick, Dulin and Piko (2010) in order to determine the connection between self reported depressive symptomatology and the various groups involved in peer victimization. Furthermore, the relative effects of bullying especially to the victims were analyzed and explored in detail. The researchers also offer some protection measures that can be put in place to curtail this social vice common among youths. Data gathering took place in 2002 during spring season. A sum of 1,542 youths was sampled for the research whereby 49 percent were males. They were between grades 5 and 12.

After the analysis of the research results, it was found that the African-American youngsters reported relatively higher extremes of tentative depression episodes. Surprisingly, all the categories namely the bullies, victims as well as the bully victims portrayed similar symptoms of depression. This implied that irrespective of the group they belonged, each of the young people was faced with incidents of stress or stressful moments which later grew to depression. On the other hand, their peers who were not being bullied or victimized at all had lesser or negligible episodes of depressive symptoms. Moreover, depressive symptomatology was also closely associated with quite a number of risk factors that were all aligned towards the effects of peer victimization. According to the researchers, this was clearly evidenced in the multivariate results that were obtained. The findings were an eye opener on the risk and protective factors underlying bullying alongside how the different groups involved in peer victimization suffer after the act. As part of the remedy to the depressive symptoms, the researchers suggested that unless these risk and protective factors are scrutinized thoroughly, it may be quite cumbersome to acknowledge the effects of bullying especially to the actual victims since all the three categories suffer more or less the same psychosocial impacts.

Hunter et al. (2010) argue that lack of adequate intervention strategies on the effects of bulling on victims has led to less study on this area since past research studies mainly laid more emphasis on prevention rather than investigating the social psychological variables that negatively impact on the life of victims. As the researchers observe, developmental models of stress on bullied victims cannot be overemphasized since it is usually the onset of a long chain of psychological impacts.

The self-deferential cognitive mediators have been researched and analyzed in the empirical study. Under these mediators, it stands out that victims of bullying are often threatened before the actual act proceeds, the reason why they develop a stress disorder associated with fear and anxiety. In addition, bully victims were found to lack both self and peer control since the intense fear could not allow them to make concise decisions based on free will. Worse still, it was vivid that depressive symptoms were a common and growing characteristic among the victimized children.

Using self-report questionnaires, children between 8 and 12 years were assisted in filling out the forms. Out of a total of 924 students, 54 percent were boys while the remainder were girls. The questionnaires sought to assess the individual bullying experience of each child and how depressive symptoms were evident in their day-to-day lives (Gruber & Fineran, 2008).

From the research findings, the effect of peer victimization was mainly witnessed on depressive symptoms of the learners put under study. This began as a threat to the victim and later transcended into actual bullying. Moreover, peer victimization that was purely undertaken in a discriminatory manner had more negative depressive impacts on the victim than the one carried out non-selectively.

Jenson and Dieterich (2008) investigated the effects of bullying and reduction measures of this antisocial behavior among pupils in elementary schools. In the research study, 28 elementary schools operating within the public domain were examined. The fourth grade classrooms were utilized in the study. Using cross-classified multilevel models, the researchers gathered and consequently analyzed data gathered over a span of two years with the objective of investigating not just the best preventive programs that could be instituted in reducing bullying, but also analyze the effects of the vice to the victims (tofi & Farrington, 2011). An outcome growth model that was used continuously revealed that the drop in the rate of bullying and victimization of students was directly proportional to the decline in discipline problems in the schools after some intervention measures were taken. Moreover, controlled schools with stricter discipline standards experienced quick recovery from bullying than those schools which were still under experimentation (Bennett, 2009).

From this background, the researchers deduced that bullying was one of the causes of indiscipline cases in public elementary schools. Students who are victimized are more likely to be bullies later. Nonetheless, the binary outcome growth results inferred that the status of a bully or the one being victimized has no negligible effects when being treated over a significant period of time. Finally, anti-bullying strategies that can curtail this social vice in schools is proposed especially in urban schools where the practice is quite common.

In a research study by Karna et al. (2010), a sample of 6,980 school-going children at primary level between the grades of 3 and 5 were studied against the risk of being victimized by their peers. The behavioral effect of bystanders in bullying situations whereby pupils were being victimized was examined by the researchers. In the empirical study, a total of 77 schools comprising of 378 classrooms were investigated. Using their computer laboratories, the children were made to fill questionnaires based in the internet. Multilevel model analysis was used to analyze the data in an attempt to determine how bullying can impact on the social anxiety of a victim. In addition, the model was used to determine the correlation between peer rejection and bullying.

From the empirical research study, the researchers found out that bullied victims in classrooms where the practice was highly practiced lived with intense fear and they were quite often anxious about their next predicament. In classrooms where victims could be defended once in a while from their predators, it was evident that the level of fear was significantly low. The study concluded that bullying had tremendous and damaging emotional effects on vulnerable children. For instance, anxiety led to poor performance in class since the victimized peers lost self confidence as they were often the target of bullies. Besides, the victims developed dependency syndrome whereby the role played by bystanders in protecting the very victims created a healthy ground for totally relying on other peers for help. Although bystanders were very instrumental in protecting the vulnerable children, the side effects such as that mentioned above were inevitable.

Much of the past research on school bullying concentrated on the link between the bullies and victims. Of late, some empirical studies have started focusing on peer influence on perpetrators of the act (Murray-Harvey & Slee, 2010; Dixon & Kurpius, 2008). By far and large, little emphasis has been laid on the impact on victims especially when it comes to the relationship between the affected and teachers or even family relations.

In a study of 22 Australian schools located in the south, teachers and family relations were categorically quoted as sources of stress disorders among peers between grades 5 and 9. In the research, a total of 621 teachers also took part in assessing the adaptive potential and ability of their students. In the survey, students were supposed to open up and assist in the identification of stress and stressful moments either in school or at home. Three groups were integral in the study namely teachers, peers and families. By use of path analysis, the interplay between support and stress were examined.

From the research findings, it was concluded that victims of bullying were quite often at a higher stress level than their counterparts. Worse still, the very victims had strained relationships with their teachers and close relations (Egan & Todorov, 2009). Coping with the normal daily demands was rather difficult bearing in mind that they were already stressed. A powerful influence was also exerted from other peers who perceived the victimized as disadvantaged, helpless and sometimes of little value (Whittaker, 2009). This amounted to social stigma. As a way of reducing incidents of bullying, the researchers suggested that teachers ought to develop supportive relationship with the abused and victimized children. Besides, family members were equally encouraged to be on the forefront in meeting the immediate emotional needs of the affected victims.

Victims of bullying often go through a myriad of experiences that have not been fully researched upon. Most research studies have for a long time concentrated on emotional effects but completely ignored or underestimated the interpersonal factors as well as cognitive effects. In an empirical study involving 489 Finnish students with an average age of 10.6 years, Poyhonen, Juvonen and Samivalli (2010) critically investigated the cognitive and interpersonal effects of bullying on a victim over and above the role played by defenders. For defenders, the entire peer group considered them with a high level of self-efficacy while on the other hand; the victimized peer was a source of stigma. While defenders earned the reputation of saving those prone to bullying, the victims extensively suffered socially since they were perceived in bad light as helpless beings. On the same note, the bullies understood quite well the feelings of their victims in the sense that the latter openly expressed his or her fears. In addition, in the event that the victims were heavily defended against their bullies, quite a number of them were highly likely to seek a sense of belonging among their defenders and most likely behave according to their wish (Georgiou, 2008; Vervoort et al., 2010).

The study found out that such a chain of bullying effects was largely responsible for antisocial interactions as well as being anti-social. From the hypothesis and results of the empirical study, it became clear that affective empathy among students who were not being bullied was a real source of consolation for the victims even though there were other status variables that determined the degree of bullying impacts on the victims (Georgiou, 2008).

Adolescents trapped and negatively impacted by acts if bullying are often subjects of hopelessness, social separation as well as low self-esteem. The empirical research study by Pranjic and Bajraktarevic (2010) aimed at investigating the link between depressive symptoms and peer victimization within a school setting. Besides, the researchers examined the correlation between suicide ideation and school bullying alongside other vulnerability factors that trigger bullying.

In a systematic method, a sum of 290 students drawn from secondary school level was incorporated in the research study. A total of 15 classes with different characteristics were utilized while each of the students who participated in the research was seventeen years. A peer nomination system was used to conceive three main groups namely bully victims, those being victimized as well as the participants who were not being involved in either extreme. In order to gather the required data, a self rated questionnaire was filled by the participants. Finally, SPSS was used to perform the analysis of the data.

From the results, victims of bullying have a higher rate of committing suicide, standing at 29.0% compared to their peers who had not been victimized before (8.8%). This was also marked with a higher and elevated incidence of depression. On the same note, the case of the bully victims was not different either. There was a 17.5 % prevalence in depression and suicidal attempts compared to 8.8% for adolescents who had never participated in bullying or been bullied before. These figures were apparently consistent in all the three categories under study. Hence, the researchers concluded that depression or depression symptoms and suicide ideation are two fundamental elements worth considering when examining and assessing adolescents involved in peer victimization (Carr-Gregg & Manocha, 2011).

In order to test avoidance behavior patterns among students as outlined in two theoretical models, Randa and Wilcox (2010) utilized a nationwide sample of 3,776 participants drawn from high school level students. Before the empirical study, the researchers hypothesized that avoidance behavior was a phenomenon largely depicted by both irregularities in school environment and previous experiences of bullying. In other words, the researchers were quite convinced that high school students were more likely to develop avoidance behavioral patterns owing to the nature of the learning environment. This would be triggered by either incidents of victimization or incivilities. To obtain a clearer relationship between the two variables, the research model also incorporated the element of student fear as a likely factor which may contribute towards avoidance behavior. In spite of that, it was almost definite that in the event of student fear operating as a personal factor, the chances of it being triggered by an unhealthy learning environment was higher (Aluede et al, 2008).

Data analysis entailed the use negative binomial regression. From the research results, it was established that student fear was mainly a product of previous incidents of victimization. The contribution of school disorder was rather negligible and was not a major determinant. Alongside the bullying experiences, the presence of hostile youthful gangs was a dominant threat to students and also determined the level of student fear. In a nutshell, student fear was found to be a direct product or effect of bullying.

Conclusions and recommendations

As can be noted, the effects of bullying on school going adolescents among other peers need urgent redress especially if the aforementioned physical and health impacts are anything to go by. It is against this backdrop that general practitioners have an instrumental role to play. For example, they should be on the forefront in the process of assessing and managing victims of bullying (Biggs et al. 2008; Lamb, Bigler, Liben & Green, 2009). One such precautionary measure that can be taken is early detection of bullying symptoms that afflict the affected persons. It is a fact that cannot be denied or ignored. Indeed, bullying continues to prevail in learning institutions and grossly affecting the afflicted young people.

The standard psychological screening routine used by general practitioners should be integrated in assessing the magnitude and impact of bullying on youngsters within school setting. Performing this assessment procedure is necessary in the sense that most of the bullied victims often restrain from sharing their experiences since they are highly likely to be stigmatized (Burns, S. et al., 2008). Additionally, the victims also hold the fear that should they report what they are going through; a revenge mission may follow to the detriment of the victim. In some instances, victims who have been bullied for long may think that it is their own mistake that they are being victimized. Even for victims who may be bold enough to report their experiences, the teacher becomes the very last person to receive such news after a parent and another peer (Bogren, 2008; Beightol, et al., 2009)).

For parents or other acquaintances that may have access to bullying information, it is imperative that it is reported to the relevant authorities beginning with the school administration (Barboza, et al., 2009). This step is important since most victims may not disclose their experience even in formal consultation sessions.

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