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Is Primary School Bullying A Serious Issue?

1003PSY Research Methods and Statistics 1 Assignment

Is Primary School Bullying A Serious Issue?

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Abstract The aim of the study was to extend the findings of Coggan et al. (2003) and to analyse the relationship between bullying, depression, perceived stress, stressful life incidents and selfesteem. A group of Queensland primary school children between grades 5 and 7 from 5 different schools were randomly assigned to participate in the experiment. Students assigned received an information pack containing a consent form and a questionnaire listing questions regarding demographic characteristics, frequency of bullying, perceived stress, stressful life incidents, depression, and self-esteem. Contrary to the hypothesis the study found that the frequency of bullying was positively correlated with depression and negatively correlated with self-esteem, yet found no correlation between perceived stress and stressful life incidents.

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Is Bullying A Serious Issue The significant social impact of schoolyard bullying was vividly illustrated in August 2009 when Jai Morcom died as a result of a playground brawl at Mullumbimby High School (New South Wales, Australia). News of the 15 year-olds death led to public outcry and a mass protest by students and staff at the school (Stolz, 2009). A poll conducted by the Queensland newspaper The Courier Mail showed that 92% of the 604 respondents responded Yes to the question of Do you think bullying is out of control in our schools? While this sample is likely to be biased, placing doubts over the extent to which this opinion is shared by the general population, it does suggest a perception of a high incidence of bullying in Australian schools. Additional research conducted by the Queensland Education Department indicates that approximately five children in each class are verbally or physically bullied each week and that up to 70% of suspensions relate to bullying behaviour. Research conducted in other countries support these findings in reporting that 5 to 15% of primary school and 3 to 10% of secondary school children being the victims of bullying on at least a weekly basis (Olweus, 1994; Genta, Menesini, Fonzi, Costabile, & Smith, 1996). The high prevalence of bullying in schools indicates that more information is needed on what variables are associated with bullying and what impact it has on children. Prior research on the victims of bullying has revealed that several variables are associated with bullying. Boys are more likely to be bullied than girls (e.g., Slee & Rigby, 1993; Nansel et al., 2001), particularly when bullying includes physical harm and threats (Baldry, 1998). Younger children are also more likely to report being the victim of bullying than older children (Whitney & Smith, 1993). Victims also tend to be more introverted, passive, submissive, and lonely (Boulton & Smith, 1994; Mynard & Joseph, 1997). In victims, the amount of bullying received is positively associated with levels of anxiety (e.g.,

Is Primary School Bullying A Serious Issue? 4 Bond, Carlin, Thomas, Rubin, & Patton, 2001) and depression (e.g., Abada, Hou, & Ram, 2008; Craig, 1998), and negatively associated with self-worth (e.g., Slee & Rigby, 1993), popularity (Olweus, 1978), and physical health (Abada et al., 2008). The negative psychological variables that are associated with bullying indicate that victimisation is likely to lead to considerable stress (Newman, Holden, & Delville, 2005) and be a risk factor for subsequent mental health problems (Kaltiala-Heino, Rimpel, Rantanen, & Rimpel, 2000). Coggan, Bennett, Hooper, and Dickinson (2003) reported the findings of a large crosssectional survey of 3,265 randomly selected secondary school students in New Zealand. The students were categorised as experiencing chronic bullying (physical violence, verbal teasing, sexual harassment, and racist comments) or not across a six month period. A comparison between the groups revealed significant differences on several psychological measures. Bullied children were less likely to feel good about themselves, had a lower self-esteem, more likely to have attempted self-harm and suicide, and more likely to have higher scores for depression, stress, and hopelessness. Coggan et al. argued that the findings indicated an association between chronic bullying and negative mental health outcomes in secondary school children. Further, the authors stressed that their findings highlight the need for positive youth development strategies in conjunction with prevention and intervention strategies to reduce bullying at school. The present study aimed to extend the findings of Coggan et al. (2003) in two main ways. First, we changed the sample of students that were studied. Students were sampled from primary schools in Queensland, Australia. Second, rather than treating bullying as a categorical variable (i.e., bullied versus not bullied), we treated it as a quantitative variable (i.e., frequency of bullying incidents). An analysis of the resulting data set will provide descriptive statistics on the extent of bullying in students and those psychological variables that might be associated with the extent of bullying.

Is Primary School Bullying A Serious Issue? 5 It was hypothesised from the findings of Coggan et al. (2003) that the frequency of bullying was positively correlated perceived stress. It was also hypothesised that the frequency of bullying was positively correlated with a students stressful life incidents. The third hypothesis was that the frequency of bullying would show a positive correlation with the students level of depression. The fourth hypothesis was that the frequency of bullying would show a negative correlation with the students level of self-esteem, meaning an increase in the frequency of bullying would decrease a students self-esteem. Each hypothesis was tested through calculating the correlation and determining whether or not each correlation was strong enough to be considered significant or not. Method Participants The study consisted of 139 primary school students from 5 different Queensland schools in grades between 5 and 7. Of the 139 students 84 were male and 55 were female. Ages of participants ranged between 9 and 12 with a Mean of 10.48 and Standard Deviation of .981.
Table 1 Descriptive Statistics of Participants Bullied According to Gender, Grade and Age Grade Stats Male Female n 34 21 5 M 9.56 9.57 SD 0.50 0.51 n 24 16 6 M 10.58 10.50 SD 0.50 0.52 n 26 18 7 M 11.58 11.56 SD 0.50 0.51

30 students from each school were randomly selected between grades 5 and 7 to participate in the study. Selected students were handed an information pack containing a form of consent and a questionnaire. The Questionnaire contained questions asking students to rank

Is Primary School Bullying A Serious Issue? 6 their perceived stress, depression, self-esteem, and stressful life incidents. No system was put in place to ensure the given information wasnt falsified. Sampling Method. The methods used to sample the students and to measure the variables were given approval by the Institutional Research Ethics Committee. The target population was deemed to be Queensland primary school children in grades 5, 6, and 7. The potential participants were those students that were randomly selected to receive a survey pack that contained the self-report measurement instruments. To obtain the list of potential participants, five state schools in Queensland were first randomly selected to participate in the study. Each school consisted of a preparatory year and grades 1 to 7. The number of enrolments at the schools varied from 423 to 845 students. The enrolment list for each school was next obtained and 30 students in grades 5, 6, and 7 were randomly selected. These students became the potential participants and were each given a survey pack to take home. The pack included an information sheet and consent form that the parent or guardian was required to complete as acknowledgement of informed consent. In addition, the pack included the questionnaires to obtain information regarding demographic characteristics, frequency of bullying, perceived stress, stressful life incidents, depression, and self-esteem. The students were asked to return the completed questionnaires within one week. Of the 150 survey packs handed out, 80% were returned thus giving an actual sample of 120 students. Design The study utilised a 4 level within subject design, meaning all participants were subjected to all aspects of the study. Four response variables were used with one explanatory variable. The response variables were perceived stress, stressful life incidences, depression and self-esteem. The explanatory variable was frequency of depression. All tested variables other than the demographic information was measured as a scale, with each variable having a different range. All three grades studied were subjected to the same questions on general

Is Primary School Bullying A Serious Issue? 7 demographics, self-esteem, depression, stressful life incidences and perceived stress. SPSS Statistics was used to compile all raw data and create tables and graphs for this report. Materials Self-report measures were used to obtain demographic information and to measure each variable of bullying, perceived stress, stressful life incidents, depression, and selfesteem. Demographic characteristics. Three questions were used to obtain information about gender (male, female), age (in whole years), and grade level (5, 6, or 7). Frequency of bullying. The amount of bullying experienced by a student was measured as the number of times the student reported being a victim of four possible behaviours. A question asked In school over the past week, how many times have you experienced each of the following? The four items were Another child was physically violent towards me, Another child teased me, Another child made racist comments to me, and Another child made sexually harassing comments to me. The number of times each incident occurred was summed across the four items to give a single measure of the frequency of bullying the child experienced over the past week. Perceived stress. The level of stress perceived by the student was measured with four items. These were It is hard for me to tell people I am angry, I feel stressed by expectations to do well or better at school, I feel stressed out, and Difficulties seem to pile up so high that I feel that I cannot overcome them. Ratings were made on a scale that ranged from 1 to 25, where higher ratings indicate higher agreement with the statements. The sum of the ratings for all four items (maximum score = 100) provided the measure of perceived stress.

Is Primary School Bullying A Serious Issue? 8 Stressful life incidents. The Student Stress Scale (Janis & Mann, 1977) was used to measure stressful life incidents. The scale is an adaptation of Holmes and Rahes (1967) Social Readjustment Rating Scale in which students were asked to indicate what events they had recently or were currently experiencing (e.g., Death of a close family member, Change in eating habits, Divorce between parents). Some items were omitted (e.g., Pregnancy) or modified to better reflect the age level of the students in the sample (e.g., Change of university was modified to Change of school). Each event is given a score in terms of Life-change units with a higher number of Life-change units given for more stressful incidents (e.g., Death of a close friend versus Change in number of family get-togethers). A higher total score across all items indicates a higher overall impact of stressful life incidents. Depression. The students depression was measured with the four items of I feel lonely, I feel that people dislike me, I feel depressed, and I feel that nobody truly cares about me. Students were asked to rate their level of agreement to each statement on a scale from 1 to 10, where higher ratings indicate higher agreement. The total score across the four items (maximum score = 40) provided the measure of depression. Self-esteem. Four items were used to measure self-esteem. The items were I feel that I have a number of good qualities, I certainly feel useless at times, I wish I could have more respect for myself, and I take a positive attitude toward myself. Each item was rated on a four-point scale of 1 to 4, where higher ratings indicate greater agreement with the statement. The sum of ratings across the four items (maximum score = 16) was used as the measure of the students self-esteem.

Is Primary School Bullying A Serious Issue? 9 Results SPSS Statistics software was used to calculate all statistical data and create tables and graphs. A raw copy of all statistical data created by SPSS can be found in the Appendix of this report. Descriptive Statistic The Histogram for the frequency of bullying shows a normal unimodal distribution with a positive kurtosis. The Mean is 10.74 and the Standard Deviation is 3.554.

The Histogram for perceived stress shows a normal unimodal distribution with a positive is kurtosis. The Mean 53.78 and the Standard Deviation is 15.397.

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The Histogram for stressful life incidences shows a positive unimodal distribution with a positive kurtosis. The Mean is 83.53 and the Standard Deviation is 40.646.

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The Histogram for depression shows a relatively normal multimodal distribution with a normal kurtosis. The Mean is 20.27 and the Standard Deviation is 9.311.

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The Histogram for self-esteem shows normal bimodal distribution with a positive kurtosis. The Mean is 8.61 and the Standard Deviation is 3.103.

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Variables Associated with Bullying


Table 2 Correlations

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bullying Pearson Correlation bullying Sig. (1-tailed) N Pearson Correlation per_stress Sig. (1-tailed) N Pearson Correlation lifestress Sig. (1-tailed) N Pearson Correlation depression Sig. (1-tailed) N Pearson Correlation selfesteem Sig. (1-tailed) N 139 .196
*

per_stress 1 .196
*

lifestress .024 .391 139 .012 .446

depression .434
**

selfesteem -.384** .000 139 .036 .338 139 .074 .193 139 -.176* .019

.010 139 1

.000 139 .084 .161 139 -.099 .124

.010 139 .024 .391 139 .434** .000 139 -.384


**

139 .012 .446 139 .084 .161 139 .036 .338 139

139 1

139 -.099 .124 139 .074 .193 139

139 1

139 -.176
*

139 1

.000 139

.019 139 139

Note. p=.000 assumed p=.005 and written as p0

Explanatory Variable: bullying Response Variables: per_stress (perceived stress), lifestress (stressful life incidences), depression (level of depression), selfesteem (self-esteem).

Is Primary School Bullying A Serious Issue? 15 The scatter plot graph showing the correlation between bullying (explanatory variable) and perceived stress (response variable) shows a weak positive linear correlation between the two variables. A sig score of p=0.010 shows that the positive correlation of 0.196 is too unlikely for a significant relationship between the frequency of bullying and perceived stress to be considered.

The scatter plot graph showing the correlation between bullying (explanatory variable) and stressful life incidences (response variable) shows a weak positive linear correlation

Is Primary School Bullying A Serious Issue? 16 between the two variables. A sig score of p=0.391 shows that the weak positive correlation of 0.024 is much too unlikely for a significant relationship between the frequency of bullying

Is Primary School Bullying A Serious Issue? 17 and stressful life incidences to be considered.

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The scatter plot showing the correlation between bullying (explanatory variable) and depression (response variable) shows a positive linear correlation between the two variables. A sig score of p0 shows that a positive correlation of 0.434 unlikely to be inaccurate and strong enough for a significant correlation between the frequency of bullying and depression to be considered.

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The scatter plot showing the correlation between bullying (explanatory variable) and self-esteem (response variable) shows a negative linear correlation between the two variables. A sig score of p0 shows that a negative correlation of -.384 is unlikely to be inaccurate and strong enough for a significant correlation between the frequency of bullying and self-esteem to be considered.

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Discussion Out of the 4 hypotheses' tested, only two showed a strong enough correlation to be considered significant and therefore proven. The first hypothesis stated that the frequency of bullying was positively correlated with a students perceived stress, yet a p score over 0.05 (p=0.010) shows that the correlation is too likely to be inaccurate, making the correlation unreliable and the hypothesis disproven. The second hypothesis stated that the frequency of bullying was positively correlated with a students stressful life incidences, this however was also proven to be an unreliable correlation as the sig score (p=0.391) shows the correlation to be much too likely to be inaccurate. The third hypothesis stated that the frequency of bullying was positively correlated with a students level of depression, which was proven to be a fairly significant correlation with a sig score of p0 meaning the chance of the data being inaccurate was less than 0.05 making the correlation significant. The correlation was also found to be fairly strong with a positive correlation of 0.434, which is almost .5, meaning an increase in bullying will most likely display an increase in a students level of depression. The fourth hypothesis stated that the frequency of bullying was negatively correlated with a students level of self-esteem, which was proven to be a significant correlation with a sig score of p0 and a negative correlation of -.384, meaning an increase in the frequency of bullying will most likely decrease a students level of self-esteem. From the results we can conclude that the frequency of bullying a student experiences is significantly correlated with a students levels of depression and self-esteem. The hypothesis of perceived stress and stressful life incidences, although disproven, strengthen the hypothesis of depression and self-esteem as they prove that the students level of depression hasnt been caused by an outside factor, but has indeed been a result of school yard bullying.

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Although two hypothesis were disproven, the study was successful in extending the findings of Coggan et al. (2003) by providing descriptive statistics on the extent of bulling amongst primary school students and the psychological effects it may cause. In terms of psychological concerns for the study the methods of obtaining measurements of perceived stress, stressful life incidences, depression and self esteem were too vague and likely to be falsified. For the testing methods to be more accurate, an interview with each student involving one of the experimenters ensuring each question was answered properly would have made the statistics more reliable and ensure all participants fully participate. A more structured system of ranking the significance of each variable in the questionnaire would have also helped the study to be more accurate in measuring each child. The results for this study show that bullying amongst primary schools is a serious issue as of present and must be taken seriously in order to rectify the problem. Jai Morcoms death in 2009 and the public outcry (Stolz, 2009) is an example of what can happen when school bullying gets out of hand. Considering Newman, Holden, & Delvilles (2005) findings that victimisation is likely to lead to considerable stress, and Kaltiala-Heino, Rimpel, Rantanen, & Rimpels (2000) findings of the frequency of bullyings correlation with negative mental health problems, the reduction of bullying in primary schools could also increase the average students marks and chance of pursuing a high-school graduation or university.

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References Abada, T., Hou, F., & Ram, B. (2008). The effects of harassment and victimization on selfrated health and mental health among Canadian adolescents. Social Science & Medicine, 557-567. Baldry, A. C. (1998). Bullying among Italian middle school students. School Psychology International, 19, 361374. Bond, L., Carlin, J. B., Thomas, L., Rubin, K., & Patton, G. (2001). Does bullying cause emotional problems? A prospective study of young teenagers. British Medical Journal, 323, 480484. Boulton, M. J., & Smith, P. K. (1994). Bully/victim problems in middle-school children: Stability, selfperceived competence, peer perceptions and peer acceptance. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 12, 315329. Coggan, C., Bennett, S., Hooper, R., & Dickinson, P. (2003). Association between bullying and mental health status in New Zealand adolescents. International Journal of Mental Health Promotion, 5, 16-22. Craig, W. M. (1998). The relationship among bullying, victimization, depression, anxiety, and aggression in elementary school children. Personality and Individual Differences, 24, 123130. Genta, M. L., Menesini, E., Fonzi, A., Costabile, A. & Smith, P. K. (1996). Bullies and victims in schools in central and southern Italy. European Journal of Psychology of Education, XI, 97110. Holmes, T. H., & Rahe, R. H. (1967). The social readjustment rating scale. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 11, 213-218. Janis, I. L., & Mann, L. (1977). Decision making. New York: Free Press.

Is Primary School Bullying A Serious Issue? 23 Kaltiala-Heino, R., Rimpel, M., Rantanen, P., & Rimpel, A. (2000). Bullying at school an indicator of adolescents at risk for mental disorders. Journal of Adolescence, 23, 661-674. Mynard, H., & Joseph, S. (1997). Bully/victim problems and their association with Eysencks personality dimensions in 8 to 13 year-olds. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 67, 5154. Nansel, T. R., Overpeck, M., Pilla, R. S., Ruan, W. J., Simons-Morton, B., & Scheidt, P. (2001). Bullying behaviors among US youth: prevalence and association with psychosocial adjustment. JAMA, The Journal of the American Medical Association, 285, 2094. Newman, M. L., Holden, G. W., & Delville, Y. (2005). Isolation and the stress of being bullied. Journal of Adolescence, 28, 343-357. Olweus, D. (1978). Aggression in the schools: bullies and whipping boys. New York: Wiley. Olweus, D. (1994). Annotation: Bullying at school: Basic facts and effects of a school based intervention program. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and Allied Disciplines, 35, 11711190. Slee, P. T., & Rigby, K. (1993). Australian school childrens self appraisal of interpersonal relations: the bullying experience. Child Psychiatry and Human Development, 23, 273282. Stolz, G. (2009). Mullumbimby High School walkout over bullying. The Courier Mail. Accessed 10/10/09 from: http://www.news.com.au/couriermail/story/0,23739,26002921 -953,00.html Whitney, L., & Smith, P. K. (1993). A survey of the nature and extent of bullying in junior/middle and secondary schools. Educational Research, 35, 325.

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Appendix

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Correlations bullying Pearson Correlation bullying Sig. (1-tailed) N Pearson Correlation per_stress Sig. (1-tailed) N Pearson Correlation lifestress Sig. (1-tailed) N Pearson Correlation depression Sig. (1-tailed) N Pearson Correlation selfesteem Sig. (1-tailed) N 139 .196
*

per_stress 1 .196
*

lifestress .024 .391 139 .012 .446

depression .434
**

selfesteem -.384** .000 139 .036 .338 139 .074 .193 139 -.176* .019

.010 139 1

.000 139 .084 .161 139 -.099 .124

.010 139 .024 .391 139 .434** .000 139 -.384


**

139 .012 .446 139 .084 .161 139 .036 .338 139

139 1

139 -.099 .124 139 .074 .193 139

139 1

139 -.176
*

139 1

.000 139

.019 139 139

*. Correlation is significant at the 0.05 level (1-tailed). **. Correlation is significant at the 0.01 level (1-tailed).

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Table 1 Descriptive Statistics of Participants Bullied According to Gender, Grade and Age Grade Stats Male Female n 34 21 5 M 9.56 9.57 SD 0.50 0.51 n 24 16 6 M 10.58 10.50 SD 0.50 0.52 n 26 18 7 M 11.58 11.56 SD 0.50 0.51