EDUCATION TRIBUNE Tuesday, March 18, 2003, Chandigarh, India

Violence, bullying rampant in schools, says study
V.P. Prabhakar

lthough our children are highly exposed to violence, it is consistently higher at school than at home or in the neighbourhood. Eight out of 10 adolescents are verbally put down or bullied, according to a study.

Pushing children to failure
Nanki Hans
hildren who depend heavily on adult approval may decide, if they fail to get total success, that they might as well have total failure. There is a danger that in the strategy that adults often employ to make children do their bidding, we are helping them become deliberate failures.




Violence, bullying rampant in schools, says study
V.P. Prabhakar

Although our children are highly exposed to violence, it is consistently higher at school than at home or in the neighbourhood. Eight out of 10 adolescents are verbally put down or bullied, according to a study.

Of the children witnessing violence, the ones seeing more serious forms of violence, that is 28 per cent of the total exposure, is alarming. Thirteen per cent of adolescents reported violent behaviour. On the whole, 27 per cent of the respondents were victims of at least one violent act in the past one year.

The most significant point in the study is that 22 per cent of the adolescents received corporal punishment, either from the parents or teachers and these children were poorly adjusted to home, school and teachers. A majority of perpetrators were those who were either victims or had witnessed violence recently. Males were more likely to be a witness victim as well as perpetrator of violence than females.

These revelations have been made in a study on "violence exposure of adolescents in Chandigarh". The report by the chief investigator, Dr Munni Ray, Assistant Professor, Department of Pediatrics, PGI, and the co-investigator, Dr P. Malhi, Associate Professor, Department of pediatrics, PGI, was submitted to the Department of Science and Technology, Chandigarh.

The aims and objects of the study were to assess the extent of exposure to violence in children and adolescents going to schools, to assess the demographic and socio-economic correlates to exposure to violence, to identify the high-risk groups of adolescents who are victims, perpetrators and witness to violence, respectively, and to assess the contribution of the media to violence exposure.

For this 1,500 adolescents, both male and female, studying in classes VIII-XII in 10 government schools in 2001-02 of Chandigarh were questioned. All schools were co-educational, except for two, which were exclusively for girls. There were 789 boys and 711 girl-students.

The study shows that 98.7 per cent of the students watched television and 72 per cent of them liked and watched action, thriller and horror shows. Significantly, more males preferred to watch such shows as compared to females.

All students watched movies and 52 per cent had preference for action and thrillers. Eighty-two per cent of adolescents watched television along with their parents and 51.17 per cent parents stopped the adolescents from watching television. Fifteen per cent surfed the net for more than two hours per day. Males used the net more than the females. Net surfing was primarily used for entertainment purposes.

Vague aches and pains, according to the study, at different parts of the body were reported by 8 per cent of the study sample, 68 per cent of whom had witnessed violence. On enquiring whom adolescents trusted with their problems, parents were the most trusted followed by friends. Teachers were taken into confidence by only 6 per cent students. The boys trusted friends and the girls, their parents.

The socio demographic correlates of adolescents, who witnessed violence, show that the males witnessed more violence and also viewed more serious crimes like stabbing and shooting. The educational status of parents of adolescents who had witnessed violence was significantly lower than those who had not witnessed violence. The academic performance of this group was significantly lower than the group who had not witnessed violence.

Students report of their own violent behaviour within were also studied. Hitting others or engaging in a physical fight was reported by 197 (13 per cent) of the adolescents surveyed. The number of students, who reported hitting someone in retaliation, was the maximum. The reasons cited for physical violence were fights over money/belongings, girls, and calls name by bullies.

The maximum fights were conducted at school (74 per cent), followed by neighbourhood and last at home.

The students who were perpetrators were the ones who enjoyed seeing more action and violence-oriented programmes on the television and in movies and for a longer duration of time. Almost without exception, boys reported higher rates of violence towards others than did the girls across all sites (school, home and neighbourhood).

The study says that the frequency of violence experienced and witnessed by the adolescents at school is alarming. Hence, the school authorities should understand more about the adolescent sub-culture and create an open and safe atmosphere to discuss the issue of violence with students.

Although not much data is available about young peopleís use of new technology, such as the Internet, there is every reason to believe that "surfing the net" will prove popular.

Household income, the study points out, had no influence on the exposure to violence whereas parental education had a negative correlation. Adolescents who had longer duration of media exposure and preferred violent programmes were perpetrators of violence. Other high-risk behaviours like smoking and drinking also predisposed them to violent behaviour.

Higher exposure to violence in adolescents correlates with poorer performance at school and poor adjustment scores. The findings of this study emphasise the existence of violence in the lives of adolescents in the city and the need to identify and provide services for the youths exposed to violence.

The study concludes that violence and exposure to violence in children and adolescents are major concerns for parents, school personnel and students as well as the general population. Hence, professionals should be asked to intervene when a child has been traumatised.


Pushing children to failure
Nanki Hans

Children who depend heavily on adult approval may decide, if they fail to get total success, that they might as well have total failure. There is a danger that in the strategy that adults often employ to make children do their bidding, we are helping them become deliberate failures.

Failure, for such students, may be a promising strategy in school and even in life opines a psychologist: "It is believed by experts that alcoholics may be very able people but feel they cannot meet the high standards set for themselves and hence they donít try. They take refuge in alcohol, just as children at school may take refuge in failure."

Incompetence has a double advantage. Not only does it reduce othersí expectations of you, but also what you expect or hope for yourself. When you set out to fail, you canít be disappointed. When adults know that you canít do anything, they wonít expect you to do anything and wonít punish you for not being able to do what has been told.

For these children there is no risk in failure. With repeated failure comes low self-esteem, a gateway to delinquency. Far from making themselves sick with anxiety least they disappoint adults and arouse their terror, these kids look for ways to arouse it. They are smart to recognise that their ability to shock is a kind of power over other people. If you canít get people to like you, then make them fear you, is their strategy.

I know of a four-year-old who kept making a spectacle of himself, kicking and saying uncharitable things to the guests that his parents had called for the evening ó this despite his mother smacking his bottom in public view. He seemed to enjoy the exasperation on the faces of his guests that his actions produced. He had obviously given up on pleasing adults!

The boy reminded me of a group of teenage schoolboys travelling in a bus who kept jeering at a young couple, at times making lewd gestures. In the bus was an aura of anxious resentment against them, which they seemed to recognise and enjoy. Each time one of them said or did something awful to shock the passengers, he furtively but anxiously looked at the faces of his companions, to see if he had won their approval. Then it would be anotherís turn to outdo his predecessor in noisiness and vulgarity.

It was clear they were ready to do anything that would, even momentarily, fetch them the approval of their fellows. Each time one of them laughed at anotherís joke, almost instantly his laughter was cut short by the need to do or say something that would make the others laugh at him. Their approval of one another invariably soured into jealousy.

To nourish their sense of self-esteem, these boys had only the uneasy approval they gave one another. They could well discuss the palpable disapproval of all else around them, a disapproval close to fear and revulsion.

Harrison Salisbury in "The Shook Up Generation says: "Even in the most closely knit street gangs there is little friendship. Gang members are no more than uneasy allies, welded together partly by fear of the world outside and partly by the knowledge that nobody else gives a damn about them."

Say psychologists that strong disapproval of childrenís behaviour makes neurotics at one end and terrorists at the other. What should we do? "Adult intolerance of behaviour makes children terrified monsters. It is highly plausible that exaggerated adult reacting to childrenís misbehaviour may tend to make them juvenile delinquents," opines education psychologist John Holt.




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