n Acta Criminologica: Southern African Journal of Criminology - The bully / victim problem in schools

Volume 16, Issue 3
  • ISSN : 1012-8093



Bullying behaviour can be described as one or more individuals inflicting physical, verbal, or emotional abuse on another individual. This includes, for example, threats of bodily harm, assault, gang activities and exclusion. Most researchers believe that bullying involves an imbalance of physical or psychological power, with the bully being stronger than the victim. According to Olweus, the results of a comprehensive survey carried out in Norway in 1983 indicated that of 140 000 pupils, 6 percent were identified as bullying and 9 percent as being bullied. Bullies are learners who need to feel powerful. What distinguishes them from someone who teases occasionally is the pattern of repeated physical or psychological intimidation. The pattern of behaviour can begin at a very early age. Children identified as bullies are at a greater risk for encountering problems in future, and thus early intervention is essential. In general, less is known about victims than bullies. Learners are victimised because of their physical appearance, mannerisms, or just because they don't fit in. Most victims are either anxious and insecure or hot-tempered and restless. Provocative victims are also at risk of becoming bullies themselves. Bullying in schools is nothing new. Bullying can be put to rest only when it is recognised and steps taken to prevent it. Ignoring the problem will not make it go away. Obviously, many situations in which bullying occurs involve some sort of conflict. Learners need to learn conflict management and resolution skills, which can help stop these bullying problems from developing. Schools can create an atmosphere where healthy choice-making is encouraged. The involvement of parents, educators and the community is essential in stopping bullying in schools. Children cannot learn effectively if they fear for their safety. Troubled learners - both bullies and victims - need a supportive environment to learn and develop. In the words of Dr Dan Olweus, "Every individual should have the right to be spared oppression and repeated, intensional humiliation, in school."

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