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No Bullies Here: Student Labels Of 'Bullying' Can Be Misleading

Date:
August 10, 2009
Source:
Indiana University
Summary:
While a number of researchers have examined bullying, particularly in the wake of high-profile school shootings, these researchers largely ignore the ways that bullying is actually defined by students.

While a number of researchers have examined bullying, particularly in the wake of high-profile school shootings, these researchers largely ignore the ways that bullying is actually defined by students.

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Typically both students and researchers include physical and emotional abuse in their definitions of bullying, yet students differ from researchers in how they label others "bullies." Brent Harger, a recent graduate of Indiana University Bloomington's Department of Sociology and now assistant professor of sociology at Albright College in Reading, Penn., found that many students view bullying as a false dichotomy in which others are either "bullies" or "non-bullies." In this false dichotomy, students argue that if somebody is to be labeled a bully, he or she must fit that label at all times. This applies to how students label themselves, too.

As a result, students may participate in behavior that researchers would label bullying but define themselves as non-bullies because of other factors such as getting good grades or participating in extracurricular activities.

Because they do not identify themselves as bullies, students are able to dismiss anti-bullying messages in schools as "not for them." As a result, anti-bullying policies in schools may prevent the labeling of students as bullies but not the behaviors that outsiders would define as bullying.

"While my conference presentation focuses on student definitions, a number of adults in the schools also used this type of false dichotomy, such as a principal who said, 'I have one bully in my school,'" Harger said. "Just as with the students, defining bullies in this way prevented adults from seeing that a number of individual actions could be labeled bullying and led them to conclude that bullying was not a problem in their schools."

Harger will discuss his researchat the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Indiana University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Indiana University. "No Bullies Here: Student Labels Of 'Bullying' Can Be Misleading." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 August 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/08/090810030056.htm>.
Indiana University. (2009, August 10). No Bullies Here: Student Labels Of 'Bullying' Can Be Misleading. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/08/090810030056.htm
Indiana University. "No Bullies Here: Student Labels Of 'Bullying' Can Be Misleading." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/08/090810030056.htm (accessed October 25, 2014).

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