'Youth aggression and bullying: Challenges for pastoral care workers' in Building Bridges Over Troubled Waters: Enhancing Pastoral Care and Guidance, Ohio, Wyndham Hall Press, 2003, pp 215 - 242, Mc Guckin, C., & Lewis, C. A.
A study of over 15,000 6th-10th graders estimated that approximately 3.7 million youths engage in, and more than 3.2 million are victims of moderate or serious bullying each year in the US (Nansel, et al., 2001). While between 1994 and 1999 there were 253 violent deaths in school in the US, 51 casualties were the result of multiple death events. Bullying is often a factor in such schools-related deaths (Anderson, et al. 2001). These and other statistics clearly attest to the problem of bullying within US schools. However, bullying in schools and communities is an international problem and is present in most societies (Smith et al., 1999). For example, reported suicides of school children in Australia (Rigby, 1997), England (Marr & Field, 2001), Japan (Morita, Soeda, Soeda, & Taki, 1999), Ireland (O’Moore, 2000), Scotland (Henderson, 2002), Northern Ireland (Bell, 2001), and Norway (Olweus, 1993), have focused attention on the possible contribution of adverse peer relations.
Whilst the majority of research to date that has explored bully\victim problems has been European-based, there has been a recent upsurge in the level of community and academic attention directed towards this phenomenon in the US. Traditionally, the focus of community and academic concern in the US has been upon violence in schools, with the aim of reducing the number of violent incidents and deaths along with a reduction in the availability of provocatively aggressive instruments (e.g., guns, knives, catapults). Subsequent to recent violent events in some US schools (e.g., the Columbine High School shootings), attention has been directed towards exploring ‘low-level’ aggression (e.g., bullying) in the hope that tackling the roots of violent culture in schools may lead to a reduction in all types of violent acts.
Over the last twenty years, the challenge of understanding bully\victim problems has been taken up by an international field of researchers drawn from a wide range of cogent disciplines and has resulted in a burgeoning research literature. This work has largely focused on defining the subject matter (What is bullying?), describing the various social actors (Who is involved?), describing the effects of bullying (What are the effects?), and developing intervention programmes (What can we do about it?). A variety of different approaches aimed at tackling bullying behavior are described. Perhaps surprisingly, little specific attention has focused on the role of ‘religion’ in terms of either a research variable or as a community resource. Such omissions are particularly striking given that first, the ‘religious variable’ is well documented as a protective factor with regards to young people engaging in anti-social behavior (Francis, 2001), and second, the pastoral role, especially among young people, that is played by churches within most communities.
The aim of the present chapter is to provide answers to questions about bully\victim problems and thereby provide an accessible resource for parents, teachers, clergy, and those involved in pastoral work with children.
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