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Posted on May 3rd, 2014, by

Graham (2006, p. 317) defines peer victimization as ”˜physical, verbal or psychological abuse’ which usually takes place in school surrounding or in places with minimal adult supervision. Most scholars tent to use peer harassment and bullying as term which are synonymous to peer victimization. The author emphasizes that peer victimization should be distinguished from simple conflicts in school. The distinguishing features of peer victimization are the intention to cause physical, social or psychical harm and the lack of power balance between the victim and the perpetrator. Adelfunke (2010) emphasizes that the attacks of aggression that the victim experiences are constant and unprovoked. Peer victimization has negatives consequences both to the perpetrator and to the victim of his/her attacks.  According to Graham (2006), the examples of behavior that may be referred as peer victimization may include racial discrimination, name calling, physical assaulting, hitting, and bully gestures, spreading of rumors about the victim, cases of public excluding from the group by the informal or formal leaders.

The causes of peer victimization are usually generalized as some difference between peers that often becomes the reasons for aggressive attacks. The risk factors of peer victimization may be linked to gender, age or grade level, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, physical or mental disability or developmental lag, relationship with teachers and their attitude to the victims, weight, sexual orientation, relations in family or family connectedness, relationship with peers.

Most of the studies show that boys are more inclined to become the victims of peer harassment, while girls are not at such a high risk of becoming the victims of bullying. As for age or grade level as risk factors of peer victimization, the research data show that children of younger age often become the victims of their older peers. It should also be noted that children who demonstrate lower grades and poor academic progress are more at risk of become the victims of their more successful peers. Ethnicity may also be the cause of peer victimization as children who represent the ethnic minority in school often become the victims of their peers who represent the ethnic majority. Children come from families of lower socioeconomic status than their peers do tend to be at higher risk of bullying. Children who are physically or mentally disable or have some developmental lag often become the target of assaults and attacks of aggression. Poor relationship with teachers and the lack of their positive attitude to their students may become the cause of peer victimization as well. It can be explained by the fact that teachers always develop positive attitude to peers and children take them as an example of such attitude. Recent studies reveal that youth who think that they are overweight or underweight tend to become the victims or bullying.  Sexual orientation cannot be given as crucial factor for peer victimization as children tend to keep it in secret from their peers. However, in case it becomes evident or known to the peers a student may often become the victim of peer harassment. Poor relationship in the family and the lack of a child’s family connectedness often cause peer victimization as children with such problems tend to feel less confident and more depressed. Relationship with peers represent one of the most important factors of peer victimization as having no friend among your peers may lead to the situation of a child total disregard in school. It should be noted that less important factors may involve a student representing some subculture which may be accompanied by unusual or extraordinary set-out, make up etc.

Each day on the school bus and during recess, Jodee, a quiet, sensitive fifth grader was pushed, pelted with gravel, and showered with insults by several of her classmates.  Following the advice of her well-meaning parents, she tried to ignore her tormentors.

I suppose one of the mentioned factors might make Jodee susceptible to peer victimization. Perhaps in this situation we can only exclude the factor of gender, while other factors can be related to the case.

I do not think that her parents’ advice is quite relevant in the situation with Jodee. If a child chooses to ignore his/her tormentors the situation can definitely repeat day after day. It may lead to Jodee’s constant state of depression, lowering self-appraisal and loosing her self-esteem.  Jodee was right to inform her parents about the situation in her school as many children tent to keep such facts in secret from their parents. But, first of all, children who became the victims of bullying need support from their family. In their turn, parents should inform the administration of the school about the facts of peer assaulting and it should become the concern of the school administration. Various studies suggest different strategies of peer victimization prevention. On of the strategies to prevent peer victimization may be No Blame Approach which was developed by Barbara Maines and George Robinson (Beane, 2010). The approach presupposes teacher’s individual work with reach bully and finding out what were the reasons for bullying. The next step should be arranging a meeting wit all the people involved into the accident, including bystanders. The teacher must initiate the discussion with these students explaining them the way the victim felt and the consequences of their actions. However, blaming should be avoided. The teacher should emphasize not the blame but each member’s of the group being responsible for the situation and it is necessary to encourage them to suggest a way to help the victim to cope with the situation. Then the teacher should ask each member to improve the situation implementing their suggestions. Later the teacher should convene a meeting with these people to discuss how the things are going. In such a way the teacher can monitor the process.

Another approach to peer victimization prevention is the Method of Common Concern (Smith et al., 2004). This method presupposes that the school initiates the program involving the teachers who will work with the students to explain them the issues related to bullying. The aim of the program is to make an agreement with the members of the bully group to behave positively and to be more responsible towards other students.

Organizing groups for victims of peer assaulting may be taken as an additional measure of prevention. Children who will join the groups will be taught how to cope with such situations and their depressive state, how to improve their confidence and peer communication skills.

The main point of any strategy related to peer victimization prevention should be school administration and teachers involvement into the problem.

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