Tue, Sep 02, 2014 - Page 4 News List

Researchers link bullying impact

STATUS MATTERS:Learning where a student stands in the social hierarchy can give teachers an edge in reducing the risk of bullying-related problems, a study found

By Stacy Hsu  /  Staff reporter

School bullying is thought to increase an individual’s tendency to be in a negative emotional state, fall into substance abuse or even commit suicide later in life, but such painful experiences could be prevented via analysis of each student’s “social network position” in the classroom and timely intervention, according to research published in the latest issue of the Taiwan Journal of Public Health.

In the paper, Chung Shan Medical University’s School of Public Health assistant professor Chiang Yi-chen (江宜珍) and her student Lin Yu-jung (林妤容) analyzed a 2010 survey conducted by the then-National Science Council among junior-high school students nationwide to gauge the connection between different types of bullying and health problems.

The survey asked the students to list the names of no more than three classmates to whom they would turn when feeling upset, and whether and how often they have been subjected to verbal bullying, harmful treatments or acts of exclusion.

The pair randomly selected the results from 2,474 students from 83 classrooms in schools around the nation.

They then categorized the students into five social network statuses based on the numbers of friendship nominations received, called “indegree,” and nominations given, called “outdegree” — isolates receive zero and give zero nominations; sources receive zero, but give more than one nominations; sinks receive more than one, but give zero nominations; liaisons receive more than two and give more than two nominations and clique members, a category for those who do not belong to any of the first four groups.

Cross-analysis of the results showed that while young boys are more likely to be bullied, students with lower indegree are generally more prone to verbal and physical bullying.

Sources are more susceptible to name-calling and harmful treatment, while isolates are at a higher risk of being physically bullied and socially excluded, the research showed.

However, compared with “clique members,” those with liaison status have a higher chance of exclusion, presumably as the result of “guilt by association,” the paper said.

“The analysis showed that through understanding each student’s levels of indegree and outdegree, teachers can realize their social network status in the classroom and determine the types of preventive measures they can take to protect students from bullying,” it said.

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