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The social ordering of belonging: children’s perspectives on bullying
Linköping University, Department of Behavioural Sciences and Learning, Education, Teaching and Learning. Linköping University, Faculty of Educational Sciences.
Linköping University, Department of Behavioural Sciences and Learning, Psychology. Linköping University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-9233-3862
2016 (English)In: International Journal of Educational Research, ISSN 0883-0355, E-ISSN 1873-538X, Vol. 78, 13-23 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

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.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Elsevier, 2016. Vol. 78, 13-23 p.
National Category
Pedagogy Didactics Educational Sciences
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-123924DOI: 10.1016/j.ijer.2016.05.008ISI: 000380869100002OAI: diva2:893871
Available from: 2016-01-13 Created: 2016-01-13 Last updated: 2016-09-19Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Students’ Perspectives on Bullying
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Students’ Perspectives on Bullying
2016 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Alternative title[sv]
Elevers Perspektiv på Mobbning
Abstract [en]

The aim of the present thesis was to listen to, examine and conceptualise students’ perspectives on bullying. Students’ perspectives have not been commonly heard in research and less qualitative research has been conducted. This study contributes with students’ perspectives on bullying using semi-structured interviews with students from fourth-to eighth grade.

This thesis includes four studies. The aim with paper I was to investigate how bystander actions in bullying situations and reasons behind these actions were articulated. Paper II was a comparison study between Sweden and US, focused on how students articulate and discuss what factors influence students’ decisions to defend or not defend victims when witnessing bullying. The aim in Paper III was to study how students themselves discuss, reason and make sense of how and why bullying processes emerges in their social worlds. In paper IV the aim was to study how junior high school girls discuss and understand bullying. Findings reveal that students’ reactions as bystanders to bullying depend on how they define the situation. Explanations to the emergence of bullying were understood through a complex social ordering of belonging process. Students position themselves and others in striving to belong, and when defining victims as responsible for bullying. Social norms and negotiation of identities were also discussed among the students. Students discussed how gender and a normative peer structure, where a pressure to fit in, interlinked with how they understood bullying.

Abstract [sv]

Syftet med denna avhandling är att lyssna på, utforska och konceptualisera elevers perspektiv på mobbning då elevers perspektiv utgör ett viktigt bidrag till vår fortsatta förståelse av mobbning. Det finns fortfarande få kvalitativa studier som fokuserat elevers perspektiv på mobbning. Denna studie utgör därför ett viktig bidrag och baseras på semi-strukturerade intervjuer med elever ifrån fjärde till åttondeklass.

Avhandlingen består utav fyra studier. Syftet med studie I var att undersöka hur åskådarageranden i mobbningssituationer artiklueras av eleverna och skälen bakom dessa. Syftet med studie II var att jämföra hur elever i Sverige och USA artikulerar och diskuterar vilka faktorer som influerar deras beslut att ingripa eller inte ingripa när de blir åskådare till mobbning. Syftet med studie III var att undersöka hur elever diskuterar, resonerar och förstår vad som producerar mobbning. Syftet med studie IV var att undersöka hur högstadietjejer diskuterar och förstår mobbning. Resultaten visar att elevers reaktioner som åskådare till mobbning är situationsbundna utifån hur de definierar situationen. Förklararingar till vad som producerar mobbning sammanlänkas med en komplex socialt ordnande process där eleverna positionerar sig själv och andra i strävan att tillhöra och den utsatta ofta görs ansvarig för mobbningen. Även sociala normer och förhandlade av identiteter kommer till uttryck när eleverna diskuterar hur kön och normativa kamratnormer, där strävan att passa in, sammanlänkas med deras förståelse av mobbning.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Linköping: Linköping University Electronic Press, 2016. 119 p.
Linköping Studies in Behavioural Science, ISSN 1654-2029 ; 193
bullying, students’ perspectives, interviews, bystander reactions, grounded theory, symbolic interactionism, mobbning, elevers perspektiv, intervju, grundad teori, symbolisk interaktionism
National Category
Pedagogy Didactics Educational Sciences
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-123925 (URN)10.3384/diss.diva-123925 (DOI)978-91-7685-874-5 (Print) (ISBN)
Public defence
2016-02-05, sal I:101, Hus I, Campus Valla, Linköping, 13:00 (Swedish)
Available from: 2016-01-14 Created: 2016-01-13 Last updated: 2016-05-04Bibliographically approved

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