It is an indisputable, that bullying takes place within schools., it seems to be a universal phenomenon. Research has found that it occurs in all the socio-economic and racial groups that have been studied (Nansel, Overpeck,Pilla, Ruan,Simons-Morton, Scheidt 2001). Typically bullying has been classified as a noticeable type of aggression, that is characterized as a methodical exploitation of power (Olweus1999). While the definitions of bullying often vary, there is always one underlying concept; “bullying is a subtype of aggression”(Olweus 1994). Research has revealed that between 10-30% of children and early adolescents are involved in bullying. Although these statistics vary significantly as a role of how bullying is measured. Cole, Cornell, & Sheras, (2006) found using the survey by the National Institute of Child Health and Human development, that an estimated 1.7 million children in years 6 to 10 confessed to bullying another classmate. Bullying does not just fall into the typical category of physical aggression, in addition to this there is also relational aggression (e.g. ostracizing, and gossiping etc.) and verbal aggression (e.g.threats or mocking people ) (Salmivalli Lagerspetz,Bjorkqvist, Osterman, & Kaukiainen 1996). Because bullying requires a bully and a victim most research usually separates children and early adolescents into one of the according distinctive groups. However, recent research has found that there is a third group, victims of bullying, who also bully others (Boulton & Smith, 1994; Salmivalli et al., 1996). There is a lack of studies examining whether the proportion of bullies and victims depend on the type of school children go to, i.e. either a selective school where children are tested on ability to receive a place, or non selective schools, in which there is no entrance exam. Although research has tested schools for bullying from different socioeconomic backgrounds,and for academic achievements in selective or non selective schools in the UK schooling system, there is no empirical evidence that goes into detail about the differences in schools involved. When looking at school size Klien and Cornell (2010) found more bullying and teasing in larger schools but self reports of being a victim were not correlated with school size,
Bullying and aggressive behaviours have been studied by developmental psychologists for many years, however most of this research has centred around bullying in boys, which shows a traditional view of physical bullying. It has only been relatively recent, that the interest and awareness of bullying within girls has developed. Previous research has indicated that in general, problems with aggression in girls is seen to be less significant, and prevalent than within boys (Keenen 2001, in Peplar Craig , Yuile & conelly2004). Therefore, it is not surprising, that most empirical evidence, for models of aggression, to understand bullying is based on research of boys. Data on the frequency of bullying in schools has found a similar trend that boys bully more than girls. Charach, Peplar and Zeigler (1995 in Peplar, Craig Yuile & Connelly 2004) found that 8% of girls admit to bullying at least twice in a term, whereas 23% of boys will admit to bullying more than once. This finding has also been replicated in a naturalistic setting. Craig and Pepler (1997) observed bullying in the playground and found that girls tended to bully at “2.7 episodes per hour”, while boys bullied at a rate of “5.2 episodes per hour”. However what is important to understand here, is the type of bullying that is being observed. Olweus (1978) found that boys characteristically take part in more direct forms of aggression, such as physical bullying, whereas girls typically demonstrate indirect aggression, for example; spreading nasty rumours, and ostracizing peers. Yet these negative behaviours that girls display to each other are frequently described as “bitchy behaviours”(Leckie 1998). These can often be dismissed by parents, teachers, and supervisors and can be seen as trivial events, without taking into account the impact that these behaviours cause to the victim. Therefore these earlier reports that indicate lower levels of girls participation in aggressive behaviour, may have been due to the definition of bullying used, which is classically, overtly direct forms of aggression such as physical harm that can be easily identified (Leckie 1998). Thus only girls that had taken part in overtly direct aggression would have been reported. Besag (2006) suggested that it is still unclear whether boys actually do use more verbal aggression than girls, but there is empirical evidence for girls using less physical aggression than boys.
One of the main differences that has been noted between boys and girls are the distinct types of aggressive behaviours that each sex displays. Boys predominately show more overt forms of aggression, typically physical and verbal aggression, whereas girls do exhibit verbal aggression but the key form of aggression that girls display is relational, which can be completely missed by teachers and parents, but can be the cruellest type. Pepler and Craig (2005) found that “the nature and form of aggression changes with development”. When narrowing this finding down to specific aggression type and gender, Crick Bigbee and Howes (1996) have previously found that within girls, it is predominantly relational aggression that increases in occurrence from middle child hood, to adolescence. Therefore children at this age have just finished primary school, and will transitioning to high school, which is a much less sheltered environment than lower school. These changes become apparent due to maturation, and a shift in social relations and expectations (Peplar & Craig 2005). During early adolescence the importance of friendships changes radically (Dornbusch, 1989 cited in Espeleage 2002). Adolescents start to look for independence from their parents, and in turn focus on their friendships to talk about problems, and insecurities. Thus increasing the importance of the time that is spent with their friends (Sebald 1992 cited in Espelage & Holt 2001). However this increase in close friendships, and social support, increase girls needs to attain social status within a group (Corsaro & Eder, 1990) cited in Espelage & Holt 2001). It is during this process during early adolescence that relationships become complicated, and problems start occurring due to the fact that social acceptance and popularity grow increasing important. Eder (1995) has found that during this stage appearance is a central element of social status in girls.
Because bullying is a form of aggression, it is important to investigate closer into what type of aggression is being used to cause bullying either reactive or proactive: Reactive aggression is usually “fear-based and impulsive” in nature (Lopez-Doran et al 2009) . Proactive aggression is “predatory and calculated”. Typically, when boys bully, their actions are physical and therefore can be more impulsive, they tend to use reactive aggression, and direct aggression which can be physical or verbal, for example if they see the opportunity to victimise someone they take it, usually using physical force. Whereas with girls, bullying is emotionally based and is more calculated. They tend to act in groups, and calculate plans to attack a victim. This is reactive or indirect aggression. Bjorkqvist and Peltonen (1998) were among the first to identify that indirect aggression is a more common phenomenon in girls than boys. Some of the methods of indirect aggression that were recognised were; spreading nasty rumours, excluding others, social ostracizing, and making negative comments about a person’s appearance. Besag (2006) suggested this is because girls act in “small socially enmeshed groups “, and it is beneficial for them to use more subtle forms of aggression. One reason that has been suggested for this is that it has been recognized that girls play nearer to adult supervision than boys (Xie 2000 in Besag 2006). It has been suggested by Salmivalli and Kaukiainen (2004) that those who predominately use indirect aggression, have the peak levels of social intelligence. This is because this type of aggression is more mentally sophisticated to carry out, without the person responsible being identified. Although this type of aggression is more mentally challenging, and takes longer to execute than the immediate effect of direct aggression, the grief caused by indirect aggression can have more long lasting detrimental effects. Bjorqvist (1994) describes this these strategies as ” socially sophisticated strategies of aggression, whereby the perpetrator can inflict harm on the target without being identified “. For this reason girls act in small groups that have a firm social structure. This makes it easier for them to exploit and take advantage of relationships to manipulate and harm others. Leckie (1998) found that although indirect aggression has now been recognised as a formal subtype of bullying, girls do not always perceive their behaviours to actually be bullying behaviours. They see it as part of their social repertoire that they may use within the social hierarchy of their relationships. Early adolescent girls who show bullying behaviour usually have more prevalent social groups as this allows them to be more respected in the social hierarchy, and use bullying as an example of the power they hold within a group. If they hold a high status within a group then they may bully to defend their status. If they hold a low status in their group, they may bully to gain power or counteract their own victimisation and powerlessness. Juvenon et al’s (2003) research found that in their study at least one in five 12 year olds viewed the bullies to often be the most popular, or the “coolest” students in the class, this research was established for a large urban setting with an ethnically diverse population.
The connection between self esteem and aggression, and social behaviour is still unclear. So far, there does not seem to be any decisive evidence of bullying and self esteem, as there are two competing views, for this reason it is still unclear whether aggressive behaviours are a cause of high or low self esteem or a result of it.(Salmivalli et al 1999.) There are two very contrasting views on this matter; there is the traditional view, that low self esteem leads to aggressive behaviour. Toch (1993 in Baumiester Smart and Bowen 1996) established that a “compensatory relationship between low self-esteem and violence”. However this view really could not be supported as Toch did not have any explicit evidence for low self esteem. Yet this view, that aggression is used for self enhancement as a process of increasing ones own self esteem, has been quoted multiple times in empirical research,. Baumister et al’s (1996) research has rendered this belief unsustainable, and in contrast has found that bullies actually have an abundance of self esteem. In support of this, people who have high self esteem that are aggressive can be highly egotistical (Baumiester 1996). If they regard themselves as superior to other people, they may take out their aggression on people they feel are inferior to themselves. This is an example of Juvenons et al’s (2003) research that bullies are often regarded as the “coolest” in the class. Baumiester et al (1996) proposed that it was not just high self esteem as an independent cause of aggression, but high self esteem shared with an “ego threat”. If a bully feels that their highly favourable views about themselves are challenged, or contradicted, they may aggress. Consequently it is people that will not lower their self-appraisals, who develop into bullies.
Baumiester (1996) states that self esteem means “simply a favourable global evaluation of oneself.” This term self esteem usually suggests positive associations, however there are also so negative or mixed terms that can be associated with self esteem, such as “egotism, arrogance, honour, conceitedness, narcissism, and sense of superiority” (Baumiester et al 1996). These words also accompany basic meaning of positive self esteem, but if someone has too much of these qualities it can be seen as a negative trait. Previous evidence has established that victims of a variety of types of bullying have lower self esteem than non- victims ( Slee & Rigby 2001). Therefore if victims have lower self esteem, they will also have lower global self worth. Further research has shown that victims are less likely to do well academically, as it is reported that bully victims show feelings of stress, anxiety and less attentiveness in school(sharp 1995). Social acceptance is also highly affected for bully victims, as they can be rejected by social circles. Stanley and Arora (1998) found when looking specifically in girls aged 13-15 that those who were socially excluded had lower self esteem than girls who were not. Olwues (1994) found that bullies did not show many signs of anxiety, and seemed confident, and found no evidence of aggressive bullies to be insecure, which confirms the newer theory that bullies do not suffer from low self esteem. However this research deals specifically with boys who are aggressive bullies. Andreou (2001) found that for both girls and boys, who score highly on a bully behaviour scale were found to rate themselves to have better athletic competence, and also rate themselves higher on physical appearance