The Society for Social Work and Research

2014 Annual Conference

January 15-19, 2014 I Grand Hyatt San Antonio I San Antonio, TX

Bullying Victimization and Perceptions of School Danger: A Unique Investigation Into the Lives of Rural Youth

Thursday, January 16, 2014: 1:30 PM-3:15 PM
HBG Convention Center, Room 102A Street Level (San Antonio, TX)
Cluster: Adolescent and Youth Development
Symposium Organizer:
Paul R. Smokowski, PhD, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
According to The National School Safety Center, bullying is the most enduring and underrated problem in U.S. schools. Bullying includes both direct behaviors (e.g., physical aggression, verbal threats) and indirect behaviors (e.g., exclusion, rejection). Researchers define bullying according to four features: intent (i.e., the bully intends to harm the victim), power (i.e., the bully is physically stronger and/or has more social power than the victim), repetition (i.e., the bullying occurs repeatedly over time), and provocation (i.e., the victim does not physically or verbally provoke the bully). Bullying behavior is a common phenomenon in U.S. schools and about 30% of students are involved in bullying as bully, victim, or both. There are multiple negative sequelae associated with bullying involvement including depression, anxiety, problems with peer relationships, low school attendance, academic difficulties, low self-esteem, and in extreme cases, suicidal or homicidal behavior. There is minimal research that examines the bullying dynamic in a rural context and even less research using mixed methods.

In addition to direct victimization, students’ perceptions of danger in their school environments can negatively impact peer relationships and school experiences. Students’ perceptions of school danger is an understudied topic as the majority of researchers examine actual experiences of victimization rather than perceptions of danger. However, available research suggests that the mere perception of danger even in the absence of victimization, can lead to poor academic achievement, violent behaviors, low school attendance, and weapon carrying.

The current symposium examines rural students’ experiences of bullying victimization and perceptions of school danger. To examine these complex issues, this symposium includes both qualitative and quantitative methods, resulting in a rich and comprehensive picture of the school experiences of rural youth. Each paper uses data from the Rural Adaptation Project (RAP), one of the largest studies of rural children growing up in impoverished areas of the Southeastern United States.

* noted as presenting author
Giving a Voice to Victims of Middle School Bullying: A Qualitative Study
Caroline Robertson, MSW, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
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