Incidence and gender differences in bullying behaviour in a South African high school
There is widespread concern for the mental well–being of adolescents. Various studies have indicated the deleterious consequences of bullying for both victims and bullies, implying the serious need for interventions to lower the incidence of bullying in schools. Descriptive data must inform the development of intervention programmes. The present study aimed to provide such data and to add to existing research on bullying in South African schools. This quantitative study investigated bullying behaviour in a parallel–medium, multi–racial high school in the North–West Province. The specific research aims were to examine the total incidence of bullying experiences and, specifically, frequency levels of being bullied according to age group and race group. Furthermore, gender differences in frequency levels of individual and group bullying, as well as gender–specific frequency levels of use of direct and indirect bullying tactics were examined. A one–shot cross–sectional survey design was employed. A randomly selected representative sample of 635 learners, comprising 274 boys and 361 girls, completed a self–report survey instrument, the Peer Relation Questionnaire (Neser, Ladikos and Prinsloo 2004), with regard to their bullying experiences. The Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) was used to calculate frequencies, cross–tabulations and chi–square statistical tests. Results indicated that 52% of participants reported to have been the victims of bullying. A significant difference in distribution of bullying frequency was indicated for race groups, but not for age groups. Black and coloured learners in this school experienced a higher frequency of bullying than white learners, which indicates that racial dynamics has an important impact on bullying behaviour in this school. Bullying frequency in this high school is not significantly lower in senior secondary learners (learners 16 years and older) than in junior secondary learners (learners between 13 and 15 years), as was predicted by literature. In terms of gender differences, boys in this school were found to bully significantly more than girls. Furthermore, group bullying was found to be more prevalent than individual bullying in both genders. In this school boys and surprisingly girls too were shown to favour direct verbal bullying tactics (unpleasant teasing) and direct physical bullying tactics (hitting, kicking or pushing). This finding is a cause for concern as it is contradicted by literature which describes girls as preferring indirect bullying tactics (isolating the victim or threatening harm) to direct physical tactics, indicating that girls in this school use higher levels of physical aggression in bullying than the findings of other literature. The found high incidence levels of being bullied and bullying behaviour trends indicate a need for an anti–bullying intervention in this school, which includes learners of all age and race groups. The study's findings imply that such an intervention should include a focus on bullying of black and coloured learners and address racial dynamics in bullying. Furthermore intervention should address group and individual bullying, as well as the use of direct bullying tactics among both boys and girls, particularly direct physical tactics. Altough these findings are not generalisable to other South African schools, the need for further South African research to investigate unique trends in bullying behaviour is stressed.
- Humanities