The aim with this study was to listen to how children themselves discuss, reason on and make sense of how and why bullying emerges to extend our knowledge of what social processes that are made important among the children. As stated by Green and Hill (2005), we value children’s perspectives and want to understand their lived experience, and are motivated to “find out more about how children understand and interpret, negotiate and feel about their daily lives” (p. 3). While most studies on bullying have used quant methods, Mishna, Saini, and Solomon (2009) argue that qualitative methodologies present an opportunity for developing a deeper understanding of the group processes of bullying and participants’ perspectives on peer harassment. They are “capable of discovering important discourses and nuances” (p. 1222) that might be less visible in large-scale studies. There is a small but growing body of research on children and adolescents’ perspectives on bullying. Previous qualitative studies have revealed that children report a range of explanations as to why bullying takes place but tend to address either the victim or the bully as the cause of bullying (for a review, see Thornberg, 2011b). The victim is commonly described as deviant, odd or different, and children explain such deviant or odd characteristics or behaviour as causing the bullying (e.g., Bibou-Nakou et al., 2012; Cheng et al., 2011; Frisén, Holmqvist, & Oscarsson, 2008; Teräsahjo & Salmivalli, 2003; Thornberg, 2010, 2015a; Varjas et al., 2008). Another common explanation used among children to describe why bullying occurs addresses the bully, the bully is viewed as striving for power and status (e.g., Frisén et al., 2008; Swart & Bredekamp, 2009; Thornberg, 2010; Thornberg & Knutsen, 2011; Varjas et al., 2008), suffering from psychosocial problems, insecurity or having problems at home (e.g., Frisén et al., 2008; Thornberg, 2010; Thornberg, & Knutsen, 2011; Varjas et al, 2008), or simply being a mean or bad person (e.g., Thornberg, 2010). Further bullying explanations address peer pressure (e.g., Erling & Hwang, 2004) and having fun and avoiding boredom (e.g., Hamarus & Kaikkonen, 2008; Owens et al., 2000). Thornberg (2011a) suggests labelling and stigma theory as a theoretical framework to gain a deeper understanding of children’s tendency to blame the victim, where bullying is viewed as a social process manifested as an interactional pattern of inhumanity and power abuse. Bullying could also be understood as a collective action where labelling the victim as the cause justifies the social act of bullying where the bullies are constructed as the “normal us” (Thornberg, 2015). Hence, inclusion and exclusions might be viewed as ongoing processes embedded in childrens’s way to organise their peer activities (e.g., Adler & Alder, 1995; Bliding, 2004; Svahn & Evaldsson, 2011), which means that some actions might not be defined as bullying from the perspectives of the children. In this study it is therefore of interest to explore how and in what ways children discuss bullying, to extend our knowledge of what processes that are made important among the children. In our theoretical and methodological framework we therefore came to adopt a symbolic interactionist perspective and constructivist grounded theory.
Elsevier, 2016. Vol. 78, 13-23 p.