Social and moral dimensions of school bullying

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Bullying is a widespread problem at schools in Sweden as well as in other countries around the world. It is commonly defined as repeated aggression and harassment directed at target individuals who are disadvantaged or less powerful in their interactions with the bully or bullies. Bullying can manifest itself in different ways: physical violence, verbal aggression and harassment, relational aggression such as social ostracism and rumour spreading, and as cyber-bullying.

Our research group is particularly interested in examining bullying in school as moral and social processes. We focus on children and adolescents aged 10-18. We have several ongoing as well as recently finished projects focusing on different aspects of bullying, for example the social and moral processes of bullying, how bullying relates to children and adolescents’ morality and how you can explain different bystander behaviour.

International collaboration

In collaboration with the Georgia State University, USA, studies have been made regarding children and adolescents’ views on why bullying happens in school, what to do if one happens to witness bullying, their own experiences of bullying and witnessing bullying, and the reasons behind different bystander behaviours in bullying situations. Another study has been made in collaboration with researchers at the University of Illinois, Wayne State University and Yale University. It focuses on understanding the ecological factors that are associated with bullying across the elementary to middle school transition in the United States. Together with researchers Tiziana Pozzoli and Gianluca Gini, University of Padova, studies have been made concerning bullying and morality.

Choice of theory and methods

With reference to a pluralist and pragmatist stance toward knowledge and social and educational sciences, the research we conduct in this field is informed by a broad range of theoretical perspectives such as the social-ecological framework, the social-cognitive theory of moral agency, the social domain theory of moral development, symbolic interactionism, the sociology of childhood, stigma and labelling theory, critical perspectives, social constructionism, and SIP models.

In line with a pluralist and pragmatist stance, we also use a broad range of methods for data collection and analysis, such as qualitative interviews and focus groups, questionnaires and psychometric scales, ethnographic fieldwork, cross-sectional and longitudinal designs, grounded theory, mixed methods, statistical analysis, and qualitative content analysis.

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