Why should we care about school violence and bullying?
What is school violence and bullying?
School violence and bullying are significant problems in Greece that have gained increased attention in recent years. School violence is defined as any form of aggression (i.e., physical, psychological, or sexual) directed against a student by other students, teachers, or school staff (United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization [UNESCO], 2019). Bullying refers to repeated aggressive conduct over time, characterized by a power imbalance between one or more perpetrators and the victim. Bullying occurs between students and can take one of four types: physical, psychological, sexual, or cyberbullying (UNESCO, 2019). Both school violence and bullying can have detrimental effects on student's academic performance, health, mental health, and social development.
What are the effects on the victims?
The devastating effects of school violence and bullying can be felt long after the incidents have occurred. Victims may experience increased anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which can negatively affect their academic performance and lead to social withdrawal (Eyuboglu, et al., 2021). Beyond the psychological harm, bullying is also linked to physical health problems, such as headaches and stomachaches. Furthermore, research shows that bullying can have severe, long-term consequences on mental health, including an increased risk of suicide and substance abuse (Bottino, et al., 2015). In fact, a study by Kaltiala-Heino, Fröjd, and Marttunen (2012) found that victims of bullying were at significantly higher risk of suicidal ideation and suicide attempts compared to non-victims.
Who are the victims?
The prevalence numbers for bullying differ from one study to another in Greece 3.9% of adolescents have been victims of bullying (Stavrou, Kanavou, Fotiou, and Kokkevi, 2020) with other international studies victim rates can be up to 46.6% (Fleming & Jacobsen, 2009), The victims of violence and bullying in schools are usually perceived as different by the rest of their peers. Particularly, students from different races often tend to bully each other (Connell et al., 2015), while bullying is also driven by different cultural ideas of various religious groups (Khamis, 2015).
Moreover, some of the most brutal incidents are those linked to children with different sexual orientations (e.g., lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender) (Patrick et al., 2013). Children with mental illnesses, disabilities (Fink et al., 2015) or distinctive physical appearances can also make targets for bullies (Wilson et al., 2013). Finally, bullies can find targets in the faces of children that differ socially in the school environment, such as isolated, vulnerable, intelligent, or successful students (Brewer & Kerslake, 2015; Parris et al., 2014; Shetgiri, 2013; Varjas et al., 2010).
Who are the perpetrators?
The majority of perpetrators is consisted of males who tend to be assertive, act on impulse, and possess a truculent behaviour (Farrington, 1993). They will most likely act in an environment where stealth and anonymity can be provided, and at times with insignificant supervision. Male perpetrators will most commonly engage with the victim(s) in a physical manner, females perpetrators have higher chances of resolving to indirect bullying (eg spreading rumours). The perpetrators are likely to develop chronic physical and mental issues, just as the victims (Vanderbilt and Augustyn, 2010).
If you or someone you know is a victim of school violence and bullying immediately discuss this situation with someone and ask for help from someone you trust (family, teacher, or friend). People you trust can offer you the necessary support and help to deal with the situation, if you do not feel comfortable to go to them then ask for help from a relevant charity (eg The Smile of a Child).
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