A sound psychosocial foundation at an early and formative stage is imperial for holistic personality development. Providing such an environment is one of the prime responsibilities of any sensible society. Schools considered as the learning towers are one such organization which has a great role to play in this regard. Under the right to education, one of the prime criteria is to ensure the physical and mental wellbeing of the students which can lead to effective learning and skill development.1 Providing a conducive and ameliorated surrounding for all children has become a bare necessity both legally and socially.2 Regardless of sustained legal and social reforms, we are far away from such a situation. At ground level school bully activities, a prominent psychosocial deranged situation is glaringly prominent. Through the present study, an attempt is made to expose this unruly behavioral issue and to identify the factors supporting and antagonizing it.
Materials and Methods
A cross-sectional evaluation of students from 6th to 10th standards(classes) was undertaken over 1 year from a western district of the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh to assess the prevalence, type, and relating factors to school bully activities. Total 6 schools, 3 each from urban and rural areas were randomly selected from the enlisted ones provided by district educational office. Of them 1 each was a boy’s school, a girl’s school and a coeducational school from both the chosen settings. The sample size of 480 participants was estimated by using a prevalence-based formula where the locally relevant literature supported prevalence used was 31.4%, the margin of error fixed at 0.05%, an add-on of 10% was considered to cover the dropouts and a final roundup of number was carried out to the nearest feasible higher number.3 Bullying Prevalence Questionnaire (BPQ) to measure subscales such as Bully, Victim, and Pro-social Scales, Rosenberg's Self-Esteem Scale (RSES) to estimate participants self-esteem and General Health Questionnaire (GHQ- 12) was used for evaluation of psychiatric morbidity were used as tools for collecting information.4, 5, 6 The “back/reverse translated,” and field-tested tools were employed in data collections. Questionnaires in both English and Hindi(local vernacular) were employed keeping the need of the participants and medium instruction of schools in mind. Level of significance was fixed at p ≤ 0,05, computer coded data were analyzed by SPSS 21 of IBM Inc. US.
From 480 participants 240 each were from both urban and rural localities. 160(1/3rd) of the participants were from the three different types of schools (boy’s, girl’s and co-educational). An equal number of participants (96) were enrolled from each class (6th to 10th). The mean age of participants was 13.9 year with a standard deviation of 1.66. Students involved in some form of bully activities was 48.3% of which 20.2% were victims. From 480 candidates 298(62.1%) were prosocial, 68.4% had normal or higher self-esteem and 53.3% reported no psychological distress. This along with other descriptive details of studied variables are presented in Table 1.
A closer look at the participant behavior provided the break up into bystanders (52%), victims (20%), Bully victims (16%) and bully (13%). The Figure 1 depicts these observations.
On pearson correlation analysis Bully score and Victim score showed strong positive result (r - 0.259, p ≤ 0.001) among them but prosocial and self-esteem scores showed strong negative relations with both bully and victim scores (p ≤ 0.001). GHQ – 12 score was not related to any of the above scores (p ≥0.05). The correlation table explaining these observations is presented in Table 2.
Types and sites of occurrence of bully activities
Bully activities manifested through verbal, psychological, and physical forms in that order. Verbal and physical bully was more site-specific and mostly materialized at fixed locations. Lesser varieties of psychological bullying (exclusion from groups and threats) mostly (56.9% and 53.1%) took place at fixed locations but sever forms (thefts of objects of poor or great values and extortion of money) was mostly opportunistic (no specific site preference noted). The respective number and percentages (in parenthesis) are presented in Table 3.
Schools the dome of learning should be sanitized from all aspects so that the tender mind can learn and the persona groomed unhindered.7, 8 Though much been said and done in this regard but still wide gaps exist. One such arena is existence of bullying at middle and high schools across the world.2 The legislations for ensuring safe learning environment are a far-reaching goal at least in present context. The situation is no good in developing countries including India.9 This study highlights pertinent correlates of this psycho-social apathy.
A bully prevalence of 48.3% as reported in the present study is a staggering number considering the time, we are living in. Dake JA et al. reported an overall prevalence of 49.8% in Irish pupils.10 T. Biswas et al. also reported a Global bully prevalence at 50% for school attendance adolescents.11 Bibou-Nakou & Markos also reported that between 15 and 30% of school children are either bullied or bully others.12 The report by Biswas et al. is a recent one (2020). Bibou-Nakou & Markos study was from Greek secondary schools which have somewhat encouraging statistics.
The break of bully activities revealed the prevalence of victims at 20%, Bully victims at 16%, and bully at 13%. A higher victimization score is a thing of common occurrence followed by bully-Victim category who are involved in both activities, sometimes getting bullied(victimized) and at other times bullying others. This attribute is related to the power equation at the time of the episode. The authorities can step in and discourage this power/group activities by a regular student and parental counselling and dismantling such groups. Researchers across the globe have opined in similar lines.9, 13, 14
While bully scores and victim scores were positively correlated, prosocial behaviour and high self-esteem were reported protagonist against them (Table 2 ). Pro-social pupils had high self-esteem (r, 0.202**) which is an encouraging and synergic sign. Schools need to work on strengthening these domains which can bring the bully burden down. J. Ashwin Rambaran et al. 2020 and a host of other researchers have reported with the same vest.15, 16, 17
The most encouraging observation was pupils psychiatric score (GHQ 12) was found away from this vicious phenomenon.
Verbal bullying was noticed as a more frequent phenomenon which was followed by psychological and physical ones. Irrespective of their modality most bully activities happened in fixed locations (Table 3). Many researchers have emphasized on the comfort of place and existence of psycho-social power imbalance as it’s important contributors.18, 19, 20
Strength and weakness
The stringent and scientific sample selection process and involvement of a single investigator were aimed at bias reduction. The obvious limitation is that which is inherent to the selected study design i.e., cross-sectional study.
Perpetual offenders are a part of every society. It is our role and responsibility to bring their number down through reformist measures. Though many such measures are in place for prevention of bullying at schools but the results are hardly impressive. Identifying the potential problem in terms of its manifestations and place of occurrence will give additional inputs to concerned authorities to be more vigilant, targeted and proactive. Additionally, encouraging and awarding prosocial and self-esteem acumens will be further rewarding in curbing this social evil. All efforts must be made to sustain the gain achieved by no entanglement of the differently-abled subject into this devilish activity.
The study had IEC (institutional ethical committee clearance of R D Gardi Medical College - RDGMC) clearance vid version number 225.
We acknowledge the support received from the Inspector of school, Ujjain district and his high office for their permission to carry out this research. Our heartfelt thanks to the principals, teachers and support staffs of participating schools in making this endeavour see the light. We are indeed grateful to all the parents for their consent and participants for their enthusiastic involvement.