Abstract: A Study on the Korean Context of Bullying Among Senior Women at Senior Center: An Ethnographic Research (Society for Social Work and Research 24th Annual Conference - Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality)

719P A Study on the Korean Context of Bullying Among Senior Women at Senior Center: An Ethnographic Research

Sunday, January 19, 2020
Marquis BR Salon 6 (ML 2) (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
* noted as presenting author
Changsook Lee, MSW, Ph.D, Seoul National University, Seoul, South Korea
Jung-Hwa Ha, PhD, Professor, Seoul National University, Seoul, South Korea
Background and Purpose: Despite growing attention to bullying in senior centers in Korea, little research has systematically examined contextual factors that may contribute to bullying. Further, most studies used quantitative method and thus were limited in presenting a vivid and detailed portrayal of bullying among seniors. This study explored bullying among senior women at a senior center in Korea, with special attention to contextual factors affecting bullying.

Methods: In-depth interviews and participatory research methods were used to examine our research question: “What is the Korean context of bullying among senior women at senior centers?” Purposive sampling method was used to choose a senior center as the subject of this study. Within the center, 16 senior women and two staff members were interviewed. We analyzed the transcripts of the interviews based on the ethnographic analysis method presented by Spradley (1979).

Findings: Themes emerged from these participatory research and interviews were: inability to accept difference, culture of the center that controls individual behaviors based on collective goals and values, tendency to maintain negative homeostasis, interconnectedness between bullying and participants’ everyday life. First, senior citizens were unable to accept diversity among individuals. Different or unfitting characters were considered to be negative for the collective lifestyle. Within such atmosphere, other members were unable to acknowledge that they were different from other members of the senior center, while those have unfitting characters were nervous of being disadvantaged due to such differences. Second, the atmosphere at the senior center was strongly control-oriented. The collective lifestyle, based on abstract values such as generosity, contribution, and cooperation, was emphasized and members tended to prohibit any individual action which violated such values. Moreover, the unofficial rules formed by the users of the center were imperative in maintaining the community within the center and contributed to its control-oriented culture. Third, a senior center attempted to maintain a state of negative homeostasis. Bullying was not resolved because the state of negative homeostasis with bullying benefitted individuals who attempted to adapt to the community within the center and helped maintain the cohesion of the center. Fourth, bullying became a part of life among senior females. Issues of individual users were extended to the senior center and the local community, and conversely, incidents which occurred in senior centers and the local community affected individual lives. Due to such characteristics, the impact of bullying in the centers spread not only to the center but to the local community and individual lives.

Conclusion and Implications: Based on the findings of this study, we suggest that practitioners and researchers should take into account the contextual factors that affect bullying among senior women. Developing intervention and prevention programs that incorporate aspects of the Korean context of bullying is likely to yield effective results.