Bullying at the middle school level has significant effects on the educational processes and overall school environment, in the classroom and especially on the field where many bullying acts take place. Bullying is disruptive overall, not only for those directly involved but for teachers and students who are also affected by this growing issue in schools. Bullying is not specific to any particular culture or socio-economic status, and it is a prevalent issue not only in one country but all over the world, as recent studies confirm: “the ubiquity of school bullying: It is a global concern, regardless of cultural differences” (Moon et al. 849). These alarming statistics place bullying as a top priority to find effective solutions. For the best possible outcome at the middle school level, the answers to bullying must provide knowledge, empowerment, and answers for educators, parents, and especially the students themselves.
The bully-victim cycle is psychologically complex in some ways, with various underlying social and cultural issues at work. However, researchers and psychologists have found that certain factors apparently need to be present in order for bullying to occur. One of the main issues in bullying behaviors is how an imbalance of power within the social group has caused one person—the bully–to harass, tease, or physically harm another—the victim (Merrell, Gueldner, & Ross 26). There are also a range of behaviors and actions among the rest of the group—in the case of middle school students, the peer group within a class or on the school grounds who may see the bullying occur. Reactions and psychological effects will often be a determining factor in far the bullying will go. In many situations, there will be little or no interaction while the bullying is occurring even when there are witnesses to the action. Bystanders will commonly ignore the occurrences or look the other way, and unless intervention strategies are undertaken the bullying will continue as the imbalance of power maintains its hold on the involved parties. As the victim begins to realize that no one will be coming to his or her rescue, a cycle of fear, shame and embarrassment will ensue. Sometimes the victim will begin to avoid school altogether due to the continuous interplay of repeated bullying actions. Avoidance behaviors that keep a student out of school may cause significant loss of learning. Additionally, the valuable social lessons and experiences during the middle school years will also be lost. These issues need to be addressed at the school level in order for everyone concerned to attain higher levels of achievement and social benefits.
Bullying behaviors can be astutely observed using the social learning perspective, which amounts to the following role: “the social behaviors of individuals and dyads unfold in the context of larger social settings which influence the interactions among individuals” (O’Connell, Pepler, & Craig 437). Bullying occurs within a particular social environment, with school situations likely to be a primary setting due to many significant factors which are all present simultaneously. An approach using the social learning position will illuminate how these interactions combine together in a step-by-step fashion, perhaps escalating further into an aggressive situation as the bullying behaviors continue. At any step of the way, an effective educator, teacher, or parent can change the outcome of the bullying path of events to stop the bullying at the first opportunity. It is important for people who are working with middle-school children at any capacity to have complete awareness and evidence-based knowledge on how to initiate the intervention process. Although there are still questions and debates among psychologists on the most appropriate and effective intervention strategies, social learning theorists and researchers have gained enough knowledge to allow for several anti-bullying programs to be offered at participating education centers and schools.
There are many excellent resources available online to help educate parents and other family members on what psychologists know about bullying. For example, at backoffbully.org, Drs. Stuart W. Twemlow, MD, Frank C. Sacco, PH.D., and Stephen Twemlow cooperatively focus on bullying and anti-violence programs in schools, in addition to the informational website. Many parents may be confused or unknowledgeable about the dynamics of bullying, which are very different than typical fighting or arguing among peers at the middle school level. Although not every parent will have either the time or educational background to understand all of the psychological jargon offered on the reading site, there are several links to other helpful sites as well. The community of online support for bullying victims and their families has grown in the past few years, with the result of better information and a place where they can learn how to stop the bullying.
In the middle-school age group, electronic bullying has become an extension of the bullying behaviors that were formerly acts of aggression at school and in after-school situations. Research studies have shown this is the case in many online bullying behaviors, as in the following evidence-based study. Using quantitative measuring data, researchers gained valuable information about who actually is bullying whom online—in the results of their analysis, they found that “more than half of bully/victims indicated they had been electronically bullied by a friend” (Kowalski & Limber 526). These statistics and the continuing presence of bullying among peers at the middle school level show the importance of well-coordinated efforts to stop the bullying.
- Kowalski, Robin M., and Susan P. Limber. “Electronic Bullying among Middle School Students.” Journal of Adolescent Health 41.6 (2007): S22-S30. Web. 3 May 2016.
- Merrell, Kenneth W., Barbara A. Gueldner, and Scott W. Ross. “How Effective Are School Bullying Intervention Programs? A Meta-Analysis of Intervention Research.” School Psychology Quarterly 23.1 (2008): 26-42. Web. 3 May 2016.
- Moon, Byongook, Hye-Won Hwang, and John D. McCluskey. “Causes of School Bullying: Empirical Test of a General Theory of Crime, Differential Association Theory, and General Strain Theory.” Crime & Delinquency 57.6 (2008): 849-877. Web. 5 May 2016.
- O’Connell, Paul, Debra Pepler, and Wendy Craig. “Peer Involvement in Bullying: Insights and Challenges for Intervention.” Journal of adolescence 22.4 (1999): 437-452.Web. 5 May 2016.