SCHOOL VIOLENCE MAY BE LESS COMMON THAN SOME STUDIES HAVE SUGGESTED:
BULLIES SPEND MORE TIME WATCHING TV VIOLENCE, LESS TIME WITH ADULTS
by Dewey G. Cornell, Ph.D., and Ann B. Loper, Ph.D.
The American Psychological Association
School violence is a serious and growing problem in
the United States, but some surveys may make it seem even worse
than it is, according to researchers presenting at the 104th Annual
Convention of the American Psychological Association (APA) in
Toronto, Canada, August 9-13, 1996.
Psychologists Dewey G. Cornell, Ph.D., and Ann B. Loper,
Ph.D., reported the findings of survey administered to 10,909 7th,
9th and 11th graders in a Virginia suburban school district
covering attitudes toward aggressive behavior, victimization
experiences, weapon-carrying, fighting and other aggressive
behaviors, and substance use.
When they first tallied the raw responses, the researchers
found some very disturbing results. For example, 16.6 percent of
the respondents said they had carried a gun to school during the
past 30 days and 29.3 percent said they had been in a fight.
But before and after administering the survey, the researchers
took some precautions against gross exaggeration and sloppiness on
the part of the survey participants. For example, in the survey
they included items like "I am reading this survey carefully" and
"I am telling the truth on this survey" and threw out those in
which the participant failed to mark "yes." They also threw out
any that had missing or inappropriate identifying information, such
as grade level, gender or age. They also culled out any in which
the participant marked "once" or "more than once" to all six key
high-risk items (carrying knife, carrying gun, carrying other
weapon, in fight, drinking, using drugs) for behavior in school or
for behavior outside of school. As a result, the percentage of
students who reported carrying a gun to school dropped from 16.6 to
5.6 percent. The percentage who reported fighting dropped from
29.3 to 19.2 percent.
One particularly notable finding of the survey was the
differences between students who identified themselves as gang
members and those who didn't: gang members were more likely to
endorse pro-aggressive attitudes, report victimization experiences
and fights, carry weapons to school and use drugs or alcohol at
Where Bullies Come From:
Most of the research on those who engage in bullying behavior
(defined as inflicting physical, verbal or emotional abuse on
another individual or individuals) has focused on personality
characteristics of bullies or their victims. A new study,
presented at the APA Annual Convention, looks instead at the
familial and environmental factors that may contribute to bullying
Researchers from the Center for Adolescent Studies at Indiana
University, Bloomington, gathered data from 558 6th, 7th and 8th
graders at a midwestern middle school. Based on their responses to
a questionnaire designed to assess the frequency of bullying
behavior, the researchers divided the students into three groups:
those who engaged in little or not bullying behavior (228), those
who reported a moderate level of bullying (243) and those who
reported excessive amounts of bullying behaviors (87).
Those who reported the highest bullying behavior were also
most likely to report "significantly greater levels of forceful
parental discipline, viewing of TV violence, misconduct at home and
in the community, and fighting," the researchers concluded. They
also spent less time with adults, had fewer adult role models and
fewer positive peer influences. Thirty-two percent of them lived
in a step-family household and 36 percent lived in a single parent
household. They also had a higher level of exposure to gang
activity and easier access to guns.
The American Psychological Association (APA), in
Washington, DC, is the largest scientific and professional organization representing
psychology in the United States and is the world's largest association of psychologists.
APA's membership includes more than 159,000 researchers, educators, clinicians,
consultants and students. Through its divisions in 50 subfields of psychology
and affiliations with 58 state, territorial and Canadian provincial associations,
APA works to advance psychology as a science, as a profession and as a means
of promoting human welfare.