Key role for schools in integrating immigrants

A new article in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence has examined the relationship between the percentage of immigrants in schools and peer violence. It found that for both immigrants and non-immigrants, high classmate support was consistently related to a lower risk of bullying victimisation and less physical fighting, regardless of immigrant school composition.

The authors used data from the 2009–2010 World Health Organization Health Behaviour in School-aged Children survey (WHO-HBSC) for a total of 51,636 adolescents from 11 countries: the UK, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, and the US.

In terms of being bullied, the analysis showed that immigrant teenagers were at a higher risk of being victimised. A higher percentage of immigrants in schools was not related to being bullied, but higher levels of school support (in particular on the individual level) were related to a lower risk of being bullied (although this was also true for non-immigrants).

The analysis also found a significant, positive relationship between immigrant school composition and bullying perpetration and physical fighting, with stronger associations for immigrants compared to non-immigrant adolescents. However, for both immigrants and non-immigrants, high classmate support was consistently related to less physical fighting regardless of immigrant school composition.
The authors conclude that schools have an important role to play in integrating immigrants into societies. They say that schools need to be aware of the relationship between immigrant school composition and peer violence, and the importance of classmate support in countering negative dynamics. They recommend using intervention programmes that relate to the existence of ethnic groups, and stress positive intergroup relations and classmate support.

Source: The Relationship Between Immigrant School Composition, Classmate Support and Involvement in Physical Fighting and Bullying among Adolescent Immigrants and Non-immigrants in 11 Countries (2016), Journal of Youth and Adolescence.

Poor children face more bullying

A new systematic review published by researchers from the University of Warwick, examines whether socioeconomic status (SES) can be used to identify which schools or children are at greatest risk of bullying. They found that low SES was associated with increased odds of being a victim or a bully-victim (children who are victimised by their peers, but who also bully other children).

A total of 28 studies met the authors’ inclusion criteria, and these all reported an association between roles in school bullying (victim, bully, and bully-victim) and measures of SES. The review found that while victims and bully-victims were more likely to come from low SES backgrounds, SES was a poor predictor of bullying others. Bullying did not appear to be socially patterned, but occurred across all SES strata at fairly similar rates.

In practical terms, the authors note that their data provides little new information in terms of preventing bullying, but suggest that bullying prevention interventions should target all children, not just those from poorer households.

Source: Socioeconomic Status and Bullying: A Meta-Analysis (2014), American Journal of Public Health, 104(6).

The complex nature of bullying

A new study has looked at the pattern of bullying in US high schools.

The researchers used data from the Context of Adolescent Substance Use study, a longitudinal survey that began in 2002 of adolescents at 19 schools. The researchers determined students’ popularity based on their position in the school’s network of friendships. Victimisation was measured using interviews with students.

Only the top 5% of students were not subject to bullying. But the slopes to this peak are steep. The study found that, as students move from the middle of the friendship network towards the top, victimisation increases by 25%. Victims experience psychological distress and social marginalisation, and these adverse effects are magnified by status. For most students, gains in status increase the likelihood of victimisation and the severity of its consequences.

The study shows how widespread bullying activity is within high schools, suggesting that universal programmes to address this activity are likely to be more successful. It also supports calls for more intervention by peer bystanders – if aggression is intended to push one up the social ladder, audience disapproval should be effective in discouraging such behaviour.

You can read more about the research in this press release from the American Sociological Association.

Source: Casualties of Social Combat: School Networks of Peer Victimization and Their Consequences (2014), American Sociological Review, 79(2).