On Monday, May 31 2010, school going children in the United States of America were embarking on their summer holiday marking the close of the school academic year. It was Memorial Day like any other for the school going children. However, this was not the case for one Mrs. Alise Williams. Mrs. Alise’s family woke up to a rude shock after finding their sixteen-year-old son dead in his bedroom.
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Christian Taylor hanged himself as a result of depression that was caused by bullying that he was subjected to in school. The teenager was a freshman at Grafton High School in Yorktown, and according to his mother, he had complained that he was a victim of bullying in school.
The matter had been reported to the authorities at York-Poquosen police department, but after investigations by the police proved that there was no apparent criminal conduct on the part of the accused students, the investigations came to a close. But Mrs. Alise reports that her son’s tormentors continued bullying her son making him commit suicide (Molland, 2010).
Christian Taylor is one among the many teenagers in this country who are bullied both within and without school by their peers. According to the Suicide Prevention Resource Center [SPRC] (2011), 32 percent of American students aged between 12 and 18 years reported to be victims of bullying both within and without their school.
This was in the 2007-2008 school year. According to SPRC (2011), 21 percent of the students polled reported that they were bullied at least once every month. 10 percent of them said they were bullied at least once per week, while 7 percent were bullied on a daily basis.
Scholars such as Carney (2011) are of the view that both victims and perpetrators of this heinous behavior are at risk of committing suicide as compared to their colleagues. This has led to the emergence of a new term within the school and teenage health circles to describe suicide related to bullying. Bullycide is described by Carney (2011) as the form of suicide that is a result of the effects of bullying. This is for example suicide arising from depression that is caused by bullying in school.
The proposed study is going to look at the relationship between bullying and teenage suicide in this country. This proposal is going to review relevant literature touching on this issue, summarizing past research which will help in explaining why the proposed study is important. The proposal is going to provide the reader with the methodology that will be adopted in carrying out the study. This will include the sampling technique, data collection method and data analysis.
The main objective of the proposed study is to examine the relationship between bullying and teenage suicide in the United States of America.
- Analyze the causes of bullying among teenagers in the country
- Analyze the effects of bullying among victims, perpetrators and by-standers
- Analyze the relationship between bullying in school and suicide among teenagers in the United States of America
- Analyze the relationship between bullying and depression among teenagers in the United States of America
- What are the causes of bullying among teenagers in the country?
- What are the effects of bullying among teenagers in the country?
- What is the relationship between bullying and suicide among teenagers?
- What is the relationship between bullying and depression among teenagers in the country?
According to Klomek, Sourander & Gould (2011), bullying is regarded as a significant public health issue in America and other countries in the developed world. This is given the fact that the impacts of this behavior among teenagers are devastating.
Klomek et al. (2011) are of the view that many studies have been conducted in this area. The studies have shown that bullying and suicide are related among teenagers of school going age. Most of the studies in this field have been cross-sectional in nature. Scholars have found that bullying is associated with depression and suicidal tendencies among teenagers. Klomek et al. (2011) are of the view that these findings have been made in teenagers in elementary, middle and high schools in America and other western nations.
It is noted that bullying victims tend to be more depressed than non-victims. This leads to increased levels of suicidal ideation and suicide attempts among these teenagers (Carney, 2011). However, study findings among bullies (perpetrators of the behavior) vary from one researcher to the other.
Klomek et al. (2011) is of the view that some studies have associated bullies with depression while others have shown that bullies do not experience depression. However, researchers agree that suicidal ideation among bullies are higher than those in teenagers that do not engage in bullying. As such, it is noted that both victims and perpetrators of bullying are at high risk of attempting suicide than their colleagues who are not involved in bullying.
Studies such as those conducted by Arseneault et al. (as cited in SPRC, 2011) indicates that there are personal traits that increase the risk of a child being a victim of bullying. They include internalizing problems such as withdrawal and anxiety on the part of the child. Others include low self-esteem, low assertiveness and aggressive behavior in early childhood (SPRC, 2011). Aggressive behavior in early childhood can result to rejection by peers and social isolation, making the child vulnerable to bullying (Carney, 2011).
The social environment within which the child is brought up may also increase the risk of bullying according to SPRC (2011). This includes the unstable family, child abuse, domestic violence and depression on the part of the parents among others. It is noted that the school environment combined with inadequate adult supervision may also increase the risk of bullying among teenagers (according to Swearer et al. 2010 as cited in SPRC, 2011).
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Bullying has short term and long term effects on both the perpetrator and the victim. Short term effects may include depression on the part of the victim, low self-esteem among others. On the part of the perpetrator, bullying may be an early warning sign that the perpetrator is headed for serious violence later in life (Carney, 2011). It is noted that bullies are more likely to be involved in other antisocial acts such as crime and abuse of drugs later in life. According to SPRC (2011), perpetrators of this form of violence are four times more likely than their non-bullying counterparts to be convicted of crimes by the time they are 25.
Bullying increases rate of suicide among teenagers in the country
Significance of the Study
- The findings of this study will make adults aware of the negative effects of bullying among teenagers
- The findings will help adults identify those teenagers who are at risk of being bullied or bullying their peers
- The study will also help the adults and teenagers in preventing bullying among teenagers in the country
The proposed study will use a structured questionnaire to collect information from the participants. SPSS will be used to analyze the data collected.
The researcher will use a combination of both random and purposive sampling. Purposive sampling will be used to select public schools in which the study will be conducted. 20 public schools from this state will be selected randomly. The researcher will then make a list of all those students who are aged between thirteen and eighteen years in these schools.
The researcher will use this age bracket given the fact that these are the students that fall within the teenage years’ bracket in the schools. The age bracket will be larger than that used in Riittakerttu et al. in 1999 (as cited in Carney, 2011) which was 14-16 years.
After making a list of all those students aged between thirteen and eighteen years, the researcher will then use random sampling to pick those students that will be used in the study. From each school, the researcher will pick 30 students (n=30). This means that the total of students who will be used in this study will be 600 (N=600). The researcher feels that this size will be easy to manage. The size is considerable smaller than that used in Riittakerttu et al. in 1999 which was 17,643 (as cited in Carney, 2011).
Data Collection Method
The researcher will use two structured questionnaires combined into one to collect data. The first questionnaire will capture the personal background information on the participant (including age, sex and current level of education). This questionnaire will also ask respondents whether they are victims or perpetrators of bullying or not. The subject of bullying will be introduced to the participant by a defining statement. The statement which is adapted from World Health Organization research on teenage health will read as follows:
The next questions are about bullying. A student is said to be bullied if (a) fellow student(s) says or does nasty and unpleasant things to him or her. Bullying also occurs when a student is teased repeatedly in a way that they do not like. However, when two students of about the same strength quarrel and fight, this does not constitute bullying (Klomek et al., 2011).
The second questionnaire will collect information on the level of depression reported by the student. To collect this information, the researcher will use a modified version of the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) questionnaire. This is an instrument that was developed by Aaron Beck to measure levels of depression among participants (Beck, 2006).
The original BDI has 21 items. The researcher opted for a questionnaire to collect information given that questionnaires will give standardized responses among all respondents as opposed to an interview. Also, the BDI has been proved to be a valid and reliable tool for measuring depression among youths.
The researcher will make use of SPSS package to analyze the data collected from the questionnaires. The participants who will score between 0-7 on the BDI scale will be classified as having no depression or mild depression (Beck, 2006). Those who will score between 8 and 39 will be classified as having moderate to severe depression (Beck, 2006).
Suicidal ideation among the participants will also be analyzed. This is given the fact that the questionnaire contains items on thoughts of self harm. A correlation will be drawn between incidents of bullying and suicidal ideation.
- The researcher will ensure that the potential participants make a voluntary and informed consent to participate in the study. This will be done by informing them on the nature of the study and informing them that they are free to withdraw from the study at any given point without compromise. This information will be contained in the introduction part of the questionnaire
- The researcher will seek the approval of the university ethical committee and the school authorities in which the study will be conducted before carrying it out
- The researcher will assure the participants of confidentiality. The information collected will be used solely for the purpose of the study and will not be disclosed to third parties without the approval of the participants. Also, the researcher will ensure that the participants do not include their names in the questionnaire. The participants will be identified by the use of a randomly allocated number
Beck, A. T. (2006). Depression: Causes and treatment. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.
Carney, J. V. (2011). Bullied to death: Perceptions of peer abuse and suicidal behavior during adolescence. School Psychology International, 21(2), 213-223.
Klomek, A. B., Sourander, A., & Gould, M. S. (2011). Bullying and suicide: Detection and prevention. Psychiatric Times, 28(2), 27-39.
Molland, J. (2010). Death by bullying: Another teenage suicide. Retrieved from: https://www.care2.com/causes/death-by-bullying-another-teenage-suicide.html
Suicide Prevention Resource Center. (2011). Suicide and bullying: Issue brief. Accessed from http://www.sprc.org/sites/default/files/migrate/library/Suicide_Bullying_Issue_Brief.pdf