Sociology Mind
2013. Vol.3, No.4, 304-313
Published Online October 2013 in SciRes (
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
Five Independents Variables Affecting Bullying: Neighborhood,
Family, School, Gender-Age and Mass Media
Teodoro Hernandez de Frutos
Department of Sociology, Public University of Navarra, Spain
Received May 4th, 2013; revised June 21st, 2013; accepted July 11th, 2013
Copyright © 2013 Teodoro Hernandez de Frutos. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative
Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium,
provided the original work is properly cited.
It is probably true to say that bullying is the psychosocial phenomenon which has attracted the most atten-
tion in academic circles over the last ten years. It affects approximately three to five percent of adoles-
cents from twelve to eighteen years of age worldwide to a serious degree and up to twenty percent of this
population to a lesser degree. The long and short term effects of bullying are considered to be extremely
damaging. The importance of this phenomenon is that it may give rise to low self-esteem, anomie, de-
pression, isolation, psychosomatic symptoms, failure at school and in extreme cases, it may result in sui-
cide and future incidences of bullying in the workplace and within the home. As the number and the seri-
ousness of incidents increases, many parents worry that the problem is spiralling out of control. In recent
years, there has been a proliferation of publications on bullying, with an emphasis on how, when and
where it occurs, but not on the factors which cause it. This meta-analysis studies the influence of five so-
cial environmental variables: neighborhood, family, school, gender-age and the mass media, considered
on both an individual and interactional level, as their effects are often augmented when two or more vari-
ables are examined together. The concept “bullying” encompasses both individual and collective ag-
gression and individual and collective victimization.
Keywords: Individual Bullying; Collective Bullying; Neighborhood; Family; School; Age-Gender; Mass
Bullying can be defined as a form of low-intensity violence
which occurs in schools and which may be labelled as a sub-
type of the aggression aimed at proving that the victim is
weaker than the aggressor; the act of transgression is intentional
and takes place at regular intervals over time (Baldry & Far-
rington, 2005) and includes hitting and teasing, as well as more
passive forms such exclusion from conversation and play
(OECD, 2009). This phenomenon, identified in the 1960s in
Sweden, is a source of enormous distress for victims and their
families and may give rise to failure at school, anomie and low
self-esteem. In extreme cases, it may result in suicide and future
incidences of bullying in the workplace and within the home
(Nicholson, 2007). As the number and seriousness of incidents
increases, many parents worry that the problem is spiralling out
of control. They are demanding that schools and policymakers
do something and in response, governments and educational
authorities are devising new ways to tackle the problem: giving
children strategies to avoid being picked on, and giving teach-
ers more training to deal with the perpetrators. To make a dif-
ference, however, authorities must first understand why bully-
ing is burgeoning now. This is not easy, since its worst forms
occur during the early teen years, just when most youths stop
talking to their elders in their struggle to construct their own
identity. Long-term exposure to bullying has been mentioned as
a contributing factor in many of the tragic school shootings that
have occurred in several countries (Pernille et al., 2009). Chil-
dren with emotional/behavioral conditions are more likely to
have poor academic performance, to repeat a grade in school,
face school suspension or expulsion, develop behavioral prob-
lems in adulthood, and are less likely to engage in social active-
ties outside of school (Sing & Ghandour, 2012). An aware-
ness of the effects of the variables or social factors which have
a bearing on bullying is essential when considering preventive
measures to be adopted in order to alleviate the problem for
both the aggressor and the victim. Bowles et al. (2009) main-
tain that the broader social-environmental context including
school, neighborhood and family context may also bear influ-
ences on children’s risk of being involved in bullying from the
age of 5 and 7. As regards adolescents and young adults, we
propose including another two variables, possibly combining
both, in the study due the environments in which adolescents
Influence of Neighborhood
The association of socioeconomic status or social class (as
measured by geographical district) and violence has been long-
standing and controversial. As a result of differences in vio-
lence levels among neighborhoods in every city in the world,
delinquency theories have established a rating of municipal
districts. The crime rates in each neighborhood or district can
be predicted by its ranking within the stratified city. Nearly 9
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 305
million people in the United States live in “extreme-poverty”
neighborhoods in which at least 40% of residents have incomes
below the federal poverty threshold, which for 2011 stood at
about $23,000 for a family of four (Ludwing et al., 2012).
According to 2007 National Survey of Children’s Health (N
= 62,804) based on serious behavioral problems related to
neighborhood, household income, demographic, and behavioral
characteristics” (US children aged 6 - 17 years), the 6% of
children in neighborhoods with the least favorable social condi-
tions experienced serious behavioral problems, compared with
2.0% of children in the most favorable neighborhoods. More-
over, less favorable neighborhood conditions were associated
with higher behavioral problems index scores; a mean behav-
ioral problems index difference of 8.6 was observed between
the least and most favorable neighborhood conditions (107.5 vs.
98.9). Children in areas with the least favorable social condi-
tions had 3.1 times higher unadjusted odds of serious behav-
ioral problems than children in neighborhoods with the most
favorable conditions; children in neighborhoods with perceived
safety concerns, garbage/litter in streets/sidewalks, poor/dila-
pidated housing, and vandalism had 1.9, 2.4, 2.6, and 2.0 times
higher unadjusted odds of serious behavioral problems than
children in neighborhoods without these unfavorable social
conditions, respectively (Singh & Ghandour, 2012: p. 160).
According the 2012 National Survey of Children’s Health, the
13.4% of children is never or sometimes safe in his community,
the 3.7% of children live in neighborhood that don’t contain
parks, recreation centers, sidewalks or libraries and the 11.6%
lives in neighborhood containing broken windows or graffiti.
Theory posits that neighborhoods structural factors, such as po-
verty, residential instability, single parenthood, and ethnic het-
erogeneity, are of prime importance in explaining behaviour
through their ability to thwart or promote neighborhood or-
ganization (formal and informal institutions), which maintains
adolescent order.
The association between bullying and living in a socially
disorganized neighborhood can be explained by the fact that no
measures are taken to protect young people from such neigh-
borhoods when they are attacked. The Chicago school offers a
possible explanation for this phenomenon: the underclass resi-
dents of marginal districts must affront numerous problems of
inadequate health and income, and therefore lack the means and
interest to involve themselves in solving the problems common
to their neighborhoods. They do not feel identified with either
town planning or street safety, as they are indifferent to the
potential market value of their dwellings. The absence of lower
middle-class or working class residents is determinant; if these
socioeconomic groups formed part of the neighborhood their
presence and everyday behaviour would restrain the deteriora-
tion of neighbourly relations caused by the most disadvantaged.
As Wilson (1993) stated there exists a clear association be-
tween residential instability and violence in neighborhoods at
the bottom of the list. As these areas further deteriorate, the
pernicious effects multiply, producing increases in all the clas-
sic features of social marginalisation. The lifestyle models pre-
sented to young deprived people are homogeneous as regards
the most important exclusion variables: high rates of unem-
ployment, dependence on the state, low rates of home owner-
ship, drugs and alcohol abuse, single mothers, lack of parental
control of children and school dropout, social passivity when
faced within juvenile violence.
One classical hypothesis of the neighborhood effects on young
people is based on the premise that teenagers who live in afflu-
ent neighborhood get into less trouble with the law than teen-
ager than who live in poor neighborhood. In a seminal study,
Jencks and Mayer (1990) established that children who grow up
in a good area are more likely than who grow up in a bad area
to work hard in school, stay out of trouble and go to college,
due to three mechanisms: peer influences, indigenous adult
influences, and outside adult influences. Leventhal and Brooks-
Gunn (2000) highlight neighborhood problems (poverty, protective
factors, and neighborhood affluence) as a mechanism through
which so-called risk factors, operate on young violence. Also, the
growing recognition that it is not just single risk or protective
factors but the accumulation of such factors that is likely to
result in negative or positive child and family outcomes applied
to family and neighborhood-level analyses. The districts effects
are more common for neighborhood socioeconomic than eth-
nic heterogeneity or residential stability across all of the out-
comes, and more consistent neighborhood effects are reported
in the national samples as compared with the city- and re-
gion-based studies. The potential mechanisms through which
districts may influence youth are: 1) Institutional resources; the
quality of learning, social activities, child care, schools, medical
facilities, and employment opportunities present in the commu-
nity; 2) Parental characteristics (mental health, irritability, cop-
ing skills, efficacy, and physical health), support networks avail-
able to parents, parental behavior (responsivity/warmth, harsh-
ness/control, and supervision/monitoring); 3) Collective effi-
cacy; the extent to which community level formal and informal
institutions exist to supervise and monitor the behavior of resi-
dents, particularly youths’ activities (deviant and antisocial peer-
group behavior) and the presence of physical risk (violence and
victimization and harmful substances) to residents, especially
The most recent and successful explanation of how neigh-
bourhood disorganization could affect the level of bullying is
the theory of collective efficacy (Sampson et al., 2002; Sampson,
2012). This is defined as the ability of residents to reach
agreement on shared values in order to maintain effective social
controls. Consequently, social and organizational characteris-
tics explain inter-district variations in rates of violence; these
cannot be solely attributed to the aggregated demographic char-
acteristics of their inhabitants. Collective efficacy produces the
type of formal social control which would ensure the possibility
of living in safe and well ordered surroundings, free of inter-
personal violence and of the presence of police. It also gives
rise to informal social control or the differential ability to obtain
the allocation of public resources for the community in order to
repair façades, maintain pavements provide police controls, and
so on. A set of problems stem from deficiencies in municipal
districts, characterised by a negative social atmosphere, absence
of social capital based on collective efficacy and of vigilance to
intervene in community problems, to assist young people in
need and promote a high level of social interaction in the com-
munity. The severe economic disadvantages of deprived mu-
nicipal districts and the low level of social cohesion therein are
associated with lower cognitive and behavioural abilities of
youths who live there, independently of their family character-
istics or their personality. The positive association between a
lack of social control and anti-social behavioural problems sig-
nificantly increases in those municipal districts with limited
social capital.
One of the most determinant variable of bullying could be
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
impulsivity or lack of selfcontrol. According Zimmerman
(2010), using data from the Project of Human Development in
Chicago Neighborhoods, the effects of impulsivity are ampli-
fied in neighborhoods with higher levels of socioeconomic
status and collective efficacy, and lower levels of criminogenic
behavior settings and moral/legal cynicism. Impulsive youth
tend to live in lower SES neighborhoods (.12***) and
neighborhoods with higher levels of criminogenic settings (.06*)
and moral/legal cynicism (.09**). Impulsivity significantly
predicts violent and property offending in neighborhoods with
high levels of collective efficacy, and low levels of delinquent
behavior settings and moral/legal cynicism. Conversely, impul-
sivity is generally not predictive of crime in neighborhoods
with low or middle levels of collective efficacy, or middle or
high levels of criminogenic settings and moral/legal cynicism.
The effect of impulsivity is indistinguishable between low and
middle collective efficacy neighborhoods, and between areas
with middle and high levels of criminogenic settings and
moral/legal cynicism (not shown). For property crime, although
the slope of impulsivity is only significant in areas with high
levels of collective efficacy and low levels of criminal settings
and moral/legal cynicism, two of the three interactions are not
significant. Thus, only criminogenic behavior settings moderate
the effect of impulsivity on property offending. Multilevel lo-
gistic models revealed that the effect of impulsivity was only
significant in areas with high levels of collective efficacy and
low levels of criminal behavior settings and moral/legal cyni-
Brännströn (2012), in Sweden, found that for just over 50 per
cent of young people from areas type 5 (Very poor/almost ex-
clusively visible minorities) had been in receipt of financial
benefit at least once compared with 16 percent of their coun-
terparts in areas type 0 (Well-off/predominantly Swedish-born
population). Their average number of months on benefit was
also higher: just over 21 months compared with just fewer than
13. The likelihood of receiving benefit was more than five
times greater (ORª 5.47) for young people from type 5 neigh-
bourhoods than for the reference category, while—given re-
cipiency—those from type 5 neighborhoods did so for ap-
proximately 68 per cent more months (IRRª 1.68) than their
counterparts from well-off and predominantly Swedish-born
populated areas The risk of having been sentenced for a crime
was, for example, twice as high for young people from type 5
neighborhoods than for the reference category. A similar pat-
tern was revealed for number of offences, with young people
from type 5 neighborhoods accounting for approximately 66
per cent more offences than their peers from affluent and ho-
mogeneously Swedish residential areas.
Influence of the Family
The family is a social institution of key importance for un-
derstanding bullying because it transmits norms and values,
moulds sufficient abilities to confront new and conflictive situa-
tions, teaches blind conduct of how to behave when the parents
are absent, shows how to restrain impulses and rewards or pun-
ishes positive or negative actions. It also establishes what con-
duct is socially reprehensible; it innately regulates basic behav-
ior with regard to life and to others (Peterson & Bush, 2013).
Family socialisation is also crucial in order to understand the
paths youths tread throughout the course of their lives, how
effectively in fact they adopt to extra-family surroundings and
how they deal with the most important transitions, a challenge
which requires a certain age or maturity to perform successfully.
The multiplicity of factors makes it extremely difficult to estab-
lish the influence of the family in the causation of violent be-
haviour by their children. Especially important factors which
may lead to unleashing interpersonal aggressiveness through
bullying during adolescence are the parents, siblings, relatives,
the family’s income level and family’s educational level. The
family climate in which children grow up in, therefore, a basic
element in the ethiology of behaviour at school; youths learn to
observe adult behaviour and how parents use physical and psy-
chological punishment as a way of dominating and controlling
their children. Once this method has been interiorized, they will
employ it in relations with their schoolmates.
The wide variety of family structures must be considered
when establishing the relation between family and bullying.
Fragile family has become increasingly prevalent in recent years.
These include children living with their married biological par-
ents; children living with married stepparents; single-mother
families in which the mother was unmarried when the child was
born and is not cohabiting with a partner at the time of the
study. The other is families composed of a cohabiting couple
where the mother was not married when the child was born, but
is now cohabitating with a partner. The partner may either be
the child’s biological parent or may, at least partially, have
taken on the parental role. No distinction is made between
families sharing households with extended family members or
with other families or friends, and those who are not. Neither is
a distinction made between single mothers involved in a dating
relationship and those that are not. Fathers with high levels of
risk may passively withdraw from being involved with their
children. These men may have too many problems of their own
to become involved with their young child. There is also evi-
dence that fathers with high levels of risk also experience more
parenting stress, which tends to be negatively related to father
engagement with children Fathers may have a difficult time
recovering from the negative effects of their risk as the child
grows older because they have not been able to form early
bonds with the child or because their relationship with the
mother was poor (Waldfogel et al., 2010). In general, adoles-
cent who live in two parents households are less likely to have
ever used cigarettes, alcohol, and marijuana likely to engage in
delinquent acts, are less likely to fight, and more likely to do
well in school (Menasco, 2012).
Furthermore, within the most common variety, the nuclear
family, the effects on bullying could be complex. The relation
among their members is different as regard the number of sib-
lings, whether they are male or female, the position occupied in
the family, age differences between family members, whether
the siblings are older or younger, how great the difference in
age is (McHale et al., 2012). When the number of children in-
creases this automatically brings about a transformation of be-
haviour control and changes the method used to implant rules.
Furthermore, the distancing between siblings involves differ-
ences in family behaviour: a greater gap between births pro-
duces a better climate for the family as a whole, since with the
possibility of dedicating more attention to each child, less de-
pendence exists, and thus the style of discipline can be more
relaxed. There may also be increased collaboration between
siblings, since moments of tension caused by competing for the
same resources do not exist. Siblings serve as companions,
confidants, and role models in childhood and adolescence and
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as sources of support throughout adulthood. In early adulthood,
empirical work has suggested a distancing in the sibling rela-
tionship, with decreases in contact and proximity. Sibling re-
search has indicated two additional aspects that have to be con-
sidered when relationships between siblings are assessed: rela-
tive birth order, namely whether the sibling is younger or older,
and gender of the sibling. Older siblings inherit some positions
of authority, support and responsibility, and children are more
satisfied and to quarrel less with older siblings than with younger
siblings. Siblings especially older ones provide each other with
models of deviant behavior and serve as gatekeeper to delin-
quent peers and risky activities. While wide-ranging sibling
tension is predictive of diverse poor adjustment effects in the
adolescent and early adult phases, ineffective parenting may
condition the frequency and developmental impact of such
tension (Bank et al., 2004). Coercive interaction styles learned
in the context of sibling conflict extend to aggression with peers
and antisocial behaviors. In addition to providing a setting for
practicing coercive behaviors, reinforcing antisocial behaviors
such as deviant talk, and colluding to undermine parental au-
thority, siblings (especially older ones) provide each other with
models of deviant behavior and serve as gatekeepers to delin-
quent peers and risky activities. When the children of the fam-
ily are all males, the possibilities of bullying in the home and
outside the home increase, in comparison to cases in which
only one girl or more girls form the family nucleus; whatever
the case, the presence of females among siblings causes conflicts
and aggressions to reduce.
Another situation that could generate or prevent bullying is
the effect on the family of prolonged and unforeseen economic
difficulties, caused by a conjunctural crisis which affects a coun-
try’s economy, a region or a locality. This has been denominated
as “the family stress or the tension model. Three examples are
the influence on the family of industrial reconversion, the fall in
agricultural prices (Conger, R. D. & Conger, K. J., 2002) and
2007-2009 economic recession (Menasco, 2012). When the
family has to face problems of low salaries, loss of employment
or economic ruin, an unpleasant domestic atmosphere is
consequently produced. This may manifest itself in children’s
behaviour, since they are subjected to unfamiliar and stressful
situations. In the face of such adversities, the family may find
itself unable to take responsibility for basic shopping, adequate
food or the health care one or more of them requires. Economic
pressures increase emotional stress between spouses over time,
which in turn causes a substantial increase in matrimonial
conflict, often followed by a proposal for separation or divorce.
Children’s behaviour, in turn, is a function of the coping
mechanism they have developed to deal with caregiver’s
emotional distress. Youths of whom both parents are unem-
ployed is associated with children’s bullying behavior through
its relation with low educational level, single parenthood, and
disadvantaged school neighborhoods (Jansen, 2012). Couples
with weaker social skill, are at greater risk of conflict escalating
to the point of violence, especially during times of stress. Pa-
rental stress is linked to more punitive and less emotionally
supportive parenting and to low-income children’s internalizing
and externalizing problems and tends to co-occur with other
aspects of well-being ((Brophy-Herb et al., 2013). Despite this,
the repercussions of family tension upon children may decline
significantly if parents manage to avoid emotional exhaustion,
do not get involved in serious levels of parental conflict,
maintain marital support and do not neglect their obligations as
parents and remain faithful to their styles of child-rear-
ing. The position of older siblings may also be an influence and
even determinant, since if warmth and support are present in
inter-sibling relations, economic difficulties do not inevitably
lead to antisocial conduct. Adolescents may find an additional
umbrella for shelter there, but if the reaction of the older
siblings is negative, due to alcohol or drug abuse, the influence
on the adolescent in question will be sharper.
Influence of the School Institution
In the majority of Western countries schooling is compulsory
for youths up to a certain age. Attending school is therefore
obligatory until youths have fulfilled the educational objectives
which society has designed via its laws. National education
systems regulate school socialization establishing different rights
and obligations for students. This allows schools, within certain
limits, to design the disciplinary codes known as the school
regulations. A school which functions well with a predisposi-
tion towards learning and standing out among others has been
identified as a factor which discourages violence. In contrast,
academic failure, idleness and the imposition of rules have been
explanatory factors of aggressiveness. School climate refers to
the quality and character of school life. School climate is based
on patterns of people’s experiences of school life and reflects
norms, goals, values, interpersonal relationships, teaching and
learning practices, and organizational structures. A sustainable,
positive school climate fosters youth development and learning
necessary for a productive, contributive, and satisfying life in a
democratic society. This climate includes norms, values, and
expectations that support people feeling socially, emotionally,
and physically safe (Cohen et al., 2009) and affect the satisfac-
tion, efficacy, and commitment of teachers and thus the aca-
demic engagement and achievement of students (Cohen et al.,
Atmosphere in the school may affect the levels of violence
within schools, because both the formal and informal atmos-
phere-hidden curriculum-perceived by adolescents in their schools
fundamentally influences their behaviour. Contentment with
school is one of the principal aspects of pupils’ quality of life; it
affects psychological wellbeing, involvement at school, truancy
rates, premature school leaving and behavioural problems
(Raskauskasa et al., 2010). School violence affects a high per-
centage of the visible and invisible norms of the groups which
exist inside the school. Any youth who departs from the formal
or informal generalised consensus will be rejected; thus, the
groups’ behaviour is fundamental for the young member and
constitutes a basic protective umbrella to ensure his or her
physical and psychological safety. However, as secondary school
coincides with a period of far-reaching physiological-hormonal
changes, various transitions take place which shatter the exist-
ing climate of group norms. Firstly, group leadership and the
status of domination must be restated or reoriented, depending
on pupils’ age. Secondly, secondary school is a transition pe-
riod which is opposed to stable norms. This stage of life gener-
ates tension and frustration which may lead to an increase in
rebellious attitudes. The nature of school life is naturally af-
fected by the district and community (local, state, and national)
that it operates within. Elementary school in affluent neighbor-
hoods get better teacher than those in poor neighborhoods and
this affects how much students learn. Not yet considered, how-
ever, are compositional differences due to the fact that some high
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
schools serve a larger number of students with a history of dis-
ruptive behavior. For example, the prevalence of behavioural
problems is higher in underprivileged areas, and the fact that
teachers have a greater tendency to negatively perceive the
social climate in schools located in these areas has shown that
students from underprivileged backgrounds are often evaluated
more negatively and disciplined more frequently by teachers.
This phenomenon of contamination is well known but is not
necessarily taken into account in studies of school climate and
classroom behavior problems. Moreover, exposure to violence
in a larger school environment may reduce the quality of teach-
ing, disrupt classroom discipline, and limit teachers’ availability
to students before and after the school day (LeBlanc et al.,
Although a wealth of studies examine the influence of neigh-
bourhood on individuals, few of them analyse the role of insti-
tutions in these environments. Benbenishty and Astor (2005)
found that school climate factors explain a significant propor-
tion of the variance in academic level at secondary school; this
ranges between 14% and 32%. Schools which have dedicated
teachers who use consistent rules for the avoidance of violence
and active participation in these rules (in the form of decision-
making) with a positive relationship between teachers and pu-
pils nevertheless displayed significant ratios of bullying. Akiba
et al. (2002), in an international study undertaken in 37 nations,
concluded that violence at school should be considered inde-
pendently from the general violence in a country. Although
pupils may live in violent families, municipal districts or even
nations, this may be negatively correlated with the violence
which takes place specifically at school, since external factors
may not, in the final analysis, be as influential as previously
thought. Sentse et al. (2007) note that similarities in behaviour
produces social acceptance and dissimilarities in the dyadic
processes lead to rejection from the peer group. Youths form
groups on the basis of a similar cognition of which acts are
acceptable and which are not. Thus, those who deviate from
this uniformity will be rejected by the other group members,
who find such behaviour irritable or unacceptable. Whether as
an active instigator or victim, bullying could even be a good
way of making new friends (Holt & Espelage, 2007).
School typology has an important influence on student be-
haviour and affects the overall indices of behavioural distur-
bance. Although young people vary greatly, depending on their
cognitive and behavioural characteristics, in some schools there
is a general tendency in the pupils as a whole to behave either
appropriately or disturbingly otherwise. The factors which af-
fect school climate include the geographical or residential area
of the school, polluted, noisy or marginal atmospheres, the
architecture of the building areas with little or no vigilance
different ownership types private, state, grant-aided/independent/
semi-private. Other factors are the different types of orienta-
tion-agnostic, religious, the criteria for discipline supervision in
the classroom, the playground and the dining rooms, the selec-
tion entrance criteria for pupils with the possibility of entry
quotas, the types of management, the involvement of parents in
School Councils and the daily activity of the school and the age
of the institution. One influence is that of environment, as
shown above, since school factors affect pupils’ behaviour
much more strongly than more violent activities out-of-school.
Normally, the type of admission procedure open or selective
has been used as a powerful predictor, as some schools admit a
higher proportion of children with behavioural problems. Con-
sequently, inter-school differences in violence or antisocial be-
haviour indices are simply a result of differences in admission
policies. Each school is embedded in a larger environment that
shapes its internal organization which in turn directly affects
teachers and students. More precisely, external characteristics
such as type of students, number of students, and parental in-
volvement influence the work environment, authority, and so-
cial organization of the school. Virtanem et al. (2007) found
that the working conditions in Finnish schools located in the
lowest socioeconomic neighborhoods, compared to schools
located in high-status areas, affected the physical and mental
health of teachers -reflected in alcohol abuse, strong possibili-
ties of mental disorders, less implication in school activities and
lower efficiency in their teaching tasks.
Influence of Gender and Age
One indisputable fact that emerges from a statistical study of
violence is that gender is the strongest discriminatory variable.
The majority of crimes are committed by men. The ratio of men
to women in prison is 1:4, and in school the percentage of male
students who have been expelled or are at risk of being expelled
is considerably higher than that of female students. In the case
of bullying, it has clearly been demonstrated that its frequency
is more or less equally divided between boys and girls, but the
same cannot be said when it comes to types of bullying, as the
bullying boys engage in tends to be physical and external while
girls’ bullying tends to be more relational and hidden, which
means that the latter is often not detected or sanctioned because
its effects are less visible. Furthermore, at these ages it is not
common to find cases where boys are bullying girls and even
less so cases where girls are bullying boys. Due to hormonal
changes at the puberty stage, the number of adolescents in-
volved in romantic relationships increases in accordance with
age and sexual maturity and this may give rise to changes in
aggressive behavior leading to different types of bullying, in-
cluding sexual aggression with the objective of gaining power
and prestige within the group. (Cunningham et al., 2010). Two
important paradigms explain this difference in the behavior of
males and females: sexual selection and role theory. Both of
these stress that variations may be produced depending on the
social context which can accentuate or diminish the effects of
According to the evolutionary and sexual selection theory,
gender difference as regards use of violence has been explained
by both physiological characteristics of the hormones and by
evolutionary factors. Adolescence is the period in which both of
these issues appear abruptly and, due to this, the reproductive
capacity of the female takes on an important role. This model
explains aggression in terms of costs and benefits imposed by
the natural selection. Differences in the use of physical violence
between boys and girls is explained by the role which the re-
production process has assigned to the female, who understands
that a violent confrontation on a physical level could put at risk
her possibilities of reproducing and caring for her offspring. As
a result girls turn to another type of relational and psychological
confrontation in order to minimize these risks. For boys the cost
of physical confrontation in terms of endangering their repro-
ductive capacity is lower and lies in the injuries produced by
the conflict, taking into account that those with fewer resources
must initiate a more violent confrontation and expose them-
selves to a greater risk.
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 309
Sexual selection in terms of differences in aggression ac-
cording to sex brings into play neuro mechanisms involving
variables such as risk-taking, lack of inhibitions and fear of
physical injury. Exhibition of strength for boys aims to demon-
strate capacity to support and defend offspring, fertility and ge-
netic inheritance. Besides, the lower cost that reproduction im-
plies for males as opposed to females means that the former
tend to be more aggressive and less selective when choosing
their partners (Geary, 2010). For Volk et al. (2012) bullying for
boys means exhibiting primary traits such as physical strength,
dominance, material resources as well as seconddary traits such
as physical attractiveness. These evolutionary traits advertise a
boy’s future ability to provide and protect for a mate, as well as
to provide her with good genes. Adolescent girls can also use
indirect bullying tactics such as social exclusion or rumors to
compete over potential sexual partners by not only damaging
others’ reputations, but by attempting to socially limit com-
petitors’ access to potential partners. Having high social status
is likely to enable adolescent girls to bully more effectively
using indirect or relational means, as it puts them in a position
to exert social control, as powerful individuals, and as members
of popular groups. Thus, bullying for adolescent boys may be a
means of increasing in-group power and cohesiveness. Re-
search has shown that boys are in fact more likely than girls to
engage in solidarity in the face of conflict.
The second gender differences with regard to the use of vio-
lence have been explained also by cultural factors characteris-
tics. It better fits the view that physical aggression occurs as an
innate pattern of behavior that is subsequently inhibited by
social learning, to different extents in boys and girls. Mediators
of the sex differences in aggression, such as the greater physical
risk-taking and lesser fear of physical danger among males,
have been attributed to evolved dispositions or to social roles
The most important cultural influence in the socialization of
youths is termed hegemonic male chauvinism, in other words,
the atavistic, traditional and patriarchal belief in masculine su-
premacy, based on traditional gender roles and the opinion that
male force is an acceptable way of imposing oneself on the rest.
This includes the right to view the control of women as a le-
gitimate act and the subtlety with which boys reaffirm their
status of male power, when this is under some type of threat,
through abuse of power. By contrast, feminine roles have been
characterised by a less physical, active, violent and confronta-
tional attitude. Instead, they are more calculated, more cerebral
and more affective. A culture reflects the dominant view of
men with which the mass media constantly bombard us i.e. they
are shown as tough, strong, aggressive, independent, brave,
sexually active, relational and intelligent. Girls tend to spend
more time at home, under their parents’ supervision, while boys
spend more time outside of the home and should therefore be
more exposed to neighborhood structural and social factors.
The literature is replete with cases which illustrate tribal ri-
valries among boys at school and which demonstrate that they
develop a distinctive style of masculinity in their wars, in which
relationships of domination and subordination are established
on the basis of the use of physical violence, both legitimate
(through sport) and illegitimate (through harassment and bully-
ing). This style of masculinity is founded on the belief in the
importance of aggressive and violent acts performed to main-
tain status, reputation and resources, as a form of self-protec-
tion of masculine identity within the group. The problem is that
violence has a highly symbolic value for the acquisition of
masculine identity, as it is linked, especially in intermediate
ages, to the achievement of positions of power and privilege.
Given that the positions reached are usually unstable; their main-
tenance requires great insistence, which obliges boys to dedi-
cate greater effort and attention. Moreover, considerable evi-
dence exists to support the thesis that violence is a daily occur-
rence at school, that the majority of violent acts are perpetrated
by boys and that they may be classified as violent expressions
of certain types of masculinity. Consequently, schools may play
an important role in the prevention of violence, although few
advances have been made in this field. The fragility of mascu-
linity, especially of hegemonic masculinity, is something that
has been repeatedly underlined in analyses of the male gender
and is understandable in view of the idea of violence, compete-
tion and triumph as the basis of the affirmation of masculine
For Kenway and Fitzclarence (1997), there exists a nexus
between the positions of hegemonic sexist ideology and the use
of violence; this nexus may take shape in the four types of
masculinity based on social, cultural and institutional models of
power: hegemonic, subordinate, complicit and marginal. The
first of these is widely used in discussions of masculinity and
refers to those forms of domination which attempt to achieve
the highest status and exercise of influence and authority on the
basis of patriarchy, through many cultural and institutional prac-
tices which involve the communications media; they are con-
structed in the public sphere with regard to women and subor-
dinate masculinities, although this does not imply an all-en-
compassing process without options and without resistance.
Thus, personal and social difficulties often arise from the pres-
sures upon boys to prove their masculinity and conceal their
vulnerability. The second form is diametrically opposed to the
first and is rejected by the circle of masculine legitimacy, and
fits within what may be termed gay masculinity, under constant
pressure from the first form. The remaining two forms fit within
these two.
Age is also an important factor to be taken into account in
bullying because as children get older, the intensity of bullying
increases until a peak is reached at around fourteen years of age
coinciding with the transition to puberty-adolescence. The tran-
sition from infancy to adulthood is characterized by the devel-
opment of multifaceted learning, acquisitions of skills and knowl-
edge, waxing powers of attention and memory, growing neu-
ronal and other biological capacities, formations and transfor-
mations of character and personality, increases and reorganiza-
tions in the understanding of self and others, advances in emo-
tional and behavioral regulation, progress in communicating
and collaborating with others, and a host of other achievements
documented in this edition. Preteen and teenage years is a high
anxiety period during which children are seeking a sense of
success in social relationships at the same time that they are
struggling to find their unique identity (Carney et al., 2011).
Theories of the life cycle or, more specifically, the stages of life
have been a constant in this field, and reach back to concepts
such as adaptation and transformation; their arguments have
been widely used as an argument in sociological theory. In
accordance with the theory of informal social control graded by
age, deviation from the norms is more likely to occur when the
ties of the individual to society are weak or broken. Further-
more, it must be remembered that connection with society var-
ies over time, as informal social controls change. In the pre-
adult phase, from adolescence to mid or late twenties, young
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
people enter into a period of life which is marked by an absence
of childhood rules and regulations while not yet assuming the
responsibilities associated with adulthood. This implies that
romantic relationships during this period tend to be unstable
and may involve verbal and physical abuse (Halper-Meekin et
al., 2013).
Influence of the Television, Video Games,
Internet and Direct Exposure to Violence
The degree to which cinema and TV programs have on effect
on the violent behavior of young people has been a subject of
debate since 1960’s or before. Nevertheless, the debate has re-
opened as a result of the incorporation of new and powerful
technologies into the lives of present day youth. Hardware in-
cludes video games on computers, consoles (Xbox 360, Play-
Station, Wii), computers, smartphones (Ipod) and tablets such
as Ipads; software includes videogames which first appeared in
the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. These can be bought, bor-
rowed or simply downloaded from the Internet. The most out-
standing feature of these games is that they tend to be violent.
Over 85% of games contain some violence, and approximately
half of video games include serious violent actions. Internet
differs from other types of mass media in that it is accessible to
all and is less controlled. Apart from viewing its content online,
it is interactive so users can participate in activities and express
opinions. It is also a media for other types of media as it en-
ables us to download and edit content from other media such as
the television, the radio and the cinema. However, it allows for
the possibility of creating violent images and can also stimulate
aggressive behavior (Anderson, 2012; Bushman et al., 2012;
Kirsh, 2011). Different from video games, Internet users usu-
ally interact with an object represented by other people in the
chat room or online gaming (Donnerstein, 2011). Almost all
youths now have online access, and this access may increase
opportunities to be exposed to violence. Longitudinal, experi-
mental and cross sectional research on the effects of TV-vio-
lence has shown that the amount of viewing TV-violence in
childhood predicts young adults’ self- and other-reported ag-
gression much more than childhood aggression predicts young
adults’ TV-violence consumption. Nevertheless, in recent years
the media landscape is changing, with new technologies result-
ing in greater interactivity on smaller, graphically superior, and
computationally more powerful devices. Now it is possible to
download, view, play, and listen to violent material any time of
day or night, often from the privacy of their own rooms, and
with little supervision from parents. An explosion in mobile
and online media has fueled the increase in media use among
young people. Today, 20% of media consumption occurs on
mobile devices: cell phones, iPods or handheld video game
players. The opportunities for viewing violent content, which
was once relegated to more public spaces, have become in-
creasingly private (ISRA, 2012).
The processes that link youth’s exposure to violence with
subsequent increases in youth’s aggressive behaviors can pro-
duce either immediate and transient short term changes in be-
havior or more delayed but enduring long-term changes. Short-
term effects result from the activation of existing knowledge
structures, which include numerous types of schemata and
scripts. The human mind is seen as an associative network in
which ideas are partially activated, or primed, by stimuli they
are associated with (Huesmann & Kirwil, 2007; Huesmann,
2007; Anderson et al., 2010). Short-term increases in youth’s
aggressive behaviour following the observation of violence are
the consequence of three processes: priming of already existing
cognition or script for behaviour; immediate mimicking (imi-
tation) of observed behaviour; changes in emotional arousal and
misatribution of that arousal (excitation transfer). The results of
on experiment demonstrated that playing a violent video game,
even for just 20 min, can cause people to become less physio-
logically aroused by real violence (Carnagey et al., 2007). Bar-
lett et al., (2009) indicated that those who played a violent
video game had a significant increase in aggressive feelings,
aggressive thoughts, physiological arousal, and overt aggressive
behavior over baseline compared with those who played a non-
violent game. The time delay analyses revealed the short-term
increases in aggressive thoughts and aggressive feelings last
less than 4 min, whereas heart rate after violent video game
play may last more than 4 but less than 9 min. Analysis of the
delay conditions showed that the effect on aggression of play-
ing a violent video game lasted between 5 and 10 min. Accord
Bluemke et al. (2010), even brief playing of violent computer
games causes increases in aggressive cognitive structures. On
the other hand, playing peaceful games reduces aggressive cog-
nitive structures.
Long-term effects are those that accrue from repeated expo-
sure over a relatively long period of time, such as months or
years. Long-term effects mainly result from relatively perma-
nent changes in beliefs, expectations, scripts, attitudes, and other
related person factors that are brought about by repeated expo-
sure to video game violence (Anderson et al., 2010). Three
long-term processes seem to be most important for the sociali-
zation of the young. Observational learning of behavioral scripts,
world schemas, and normative beliefs; activation and desensi-
tization of emotional processes, and didactic learning processes
(Dubow et al., 2007). The more time young people spend
watching violent programmes, the less emotional response they
develop when faced with violent stimuli and the less empathy
they show towards victims in the real world. Desensitization
can be broadly defined as the reduction or elimination of cogni-
tive, emotional, physiological, and ultimately behavioral re-
sponses to a stimulus. Desensitization is a process involving
changes in emotional responsiveness (ISRA, 2011). Also, it re-
fers to the gradual reduction in responsiveness to an arousal-
eliciting stimulus as a function of repeated exposure. In the
context of media violence, desensitization more specifically
describes a process by which initial arousal responses to violent
stimuli are reduced, thereby changing an individual’s present
internal state. Krahé et al. (2013) findings suggested that the
more individuals habitually used violent media contents, the
less physiological reactivity they showed to a violent film clip
presented to them in a laboratory setting. According to Hues-
mann (2007), longitudinal real-world studies that have shown
correlations over time from childhood viewing of media vio-
lence to later adolescent and adult aggressive behavior the early
habitual exposure to media violence in middle-childhood pre-
dicts increased aggressiveness 1 year, 3 years, 10 years, 15 years,
and 22 years later in adulthood, even controlling for early ag-
gressiveness many people who are exposed to media violence
never commit violent behavior, “violent media, then, are not
sufficient to cause violent behavior”.
The most accepted explanation used to refute this criticism is
the risk and resilience theory which relates, on the one hand,
the risks to which young people are subjected, amongst them
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 311
exposure to the mass media, and their capacity to remain im-
mune to them. Authors such as Boxer et al. (2008) highlights
the cumulative risk of violent media together with exposure to
violence in the community, in the family, in the school and peer
groups, academic difficulties, psychopatic tendencies or cal-
lousness-unemotionality and psychopatology or related emo-
tional problems. Exposure to entertainment media violence is a
risk factor for aggressive behavior, but the presence of this
single risk factor is not sufficient to cause children to pick up
guns and begin shooting. However, with each additional risk
factor children have for aggressive behavior, the risk of that
child acting violently compounds (Gentile & Sesma, 2003).
The importance of this approach is its recognition of the impact
on the developmental system of the interaction of multiple risk
factors. No single risk factor is responsible, to the same extent,
for obstructing development (Anderson et al., 2007). The con-
cept of resilience refers to the capacity to resist environmental
risk experiences and to overcome stress or adversity (Rutter,
2006). In line with current thinking regarding resilience, suc-
cessful outcomes in spite of exposure to stress are thought to be
the result of dynamic interactions between the child and the
environment. This experience of stress or adversity in some
cases leads to a strengthening of resistance to later stress,
known as the steeling effect. Also there are protective factor,
referring to something that modifies the effects of risk in a
positive direction, something that is helpful or beneficial. Re-
silience occurs as a result of multiple protective factors—ge-
netic, interpersonal, contextual, and societal—that impinge on
the child as well as interact with the child to counteract the
negative effects of stress. The approach to understanding the
multicausality of behavior state that the premise behind a cu-
mulative risk model is simple: the more risks encountered by a
child, the greater the likelihood of problematic functioning.
Bullying in adolescents and early young can be explained by
five contextual independent variables: neighborhood, family,
school, gender-age, and mass media. Neighborhood, social
class/municipal district is clearly a very important predictor
variable. It must be remembered that neighborhood reflects the
social stratification of the city, which implies inequality: a con-
trast between good infrastructure, town planning, recreation
areas and, particularly residents, who are interested in living in
well-ordered surroundings, and a lack of all the former charac-
teristics, encountered in more deprived areas. In addition,
neighborhood conditions other variables like family and school.
Family styles of upbringing are influenced by the neighborhood
where each family lives, as when the parents fear that their
children will deviate they take measures to guard them and
exercise more control over them which makes family life more
stressful and parents more authoritarian. Schools located in the
most deteriorated areas of cities are under greater pressure from
their surroundings; they generally have more defective build-
ings and worse installations (often due to the lack of support
from the municipal districts). Even private schools located in
such areas have a much lower level than other private schools
in areas of higher per capita income, and thus despite being
private are no different in this respect from public schools. It is
therefore unsurprising that schools located in the lowest neigh-
bourhoods in social (class) terms suffer more from bullying and
a stronger atmosphere of victimisation. Schools located in the
most deteriorated areas of cities are under greater pressure from
their surroundings; they generally have more defective build-
ings and worse installations (often due to the lack of support
from the municipal districts).
Family atmosphere is a good independent predictive variable.
Delinquency during adolescence usually stems firstly from poor
family ties, due to defective direct controls, tracking and pun-
ishment, and thus the laxer these links the greater is the danger
of delinquent behaviour. Normally, this deficiency is structural
and depends on family factors, such as unemployment, poor
intra-marital relations, arguments, residential mobility or socio-
economic status. Family are also largely responsible for young
people’s exposure to the mass media because the young mem-
bers of the family have been socialized in its use within the
family and it is the parents who provide it. Nevertheless, the
influence of the mass media also begins to diminish at this age.
The school is a very important independent variable because
it is the place where bullying happens. Important factors here
include the atmosphere created by teachers, the directors, other
staff and, in general, the culture of norms and values, which
includes punishment imposed by the institution. In general
terms, more episodes of bullying occur in public than in private
schools. A possible explanation for this is the difference which
exists between them in their manner of resolving conflicts and
the capacity of each school to select and expel students at any
given moment. Private schools combat bullying to a greater
degree because the teachers are generally more concerned about
the good reputation of the school. Collective bullying is gener-
ally detected and when this happens, measures are taken to put
an end to it. Hidden curriculum in school is a very important
due to the fact that intimidation and violence generates influ-
ence among groups of friends, a type of social capital, however
minimum this may be. This fact is not recognised in the major-
ity of psycosocial studies where the bullier is characterised as
solitary and isolated individual. Collective bullying is important
in school probably because those who form part of the aggres-
sor group establish links of collusion through their mutual sup-
port and reciprocal relation.
Gender, significantly affects the distinction between manners
of bullying. Boys’ bullying is different to that of girls, in both
quantity and typology, although the two may be equally perni-
cious. Physical isomorphism means that the two categories of
bullying explain their inter-relations and why the mixed variety
is uncommon: as females always flee from collective harass-
ment. It also explains the difference in the practice of bullying
by boys and girls. Age, however, does not discriminate between
groups, probably for various reasons: the age group is ex-
tremely compact, in the sense that the abrupt changes caused by
the onset of puberty have already begun. At these stages of
school life it begins to be much less common to be attacked by
an older schoolfellow, and violence continues to diminish with
age. Through interaction with others, teenagers learn the values,
attitudes, techniques, and motives for violent behaviour. They
learn how to commit violent acts; they learn motives, drives,
rationalizations, and attitudes. It grows socially easier for indi-
viduals to commit violent acts. Their inspiration is the proc-
esses of cultural transmission and construction.
The influence of the mass media acquires special importance
when the internet is used to explain ciberbullying, but its influ-
ence must be analyzed in the context of what has happened in
previous settings. Both the frequency of television watching
and exposure to violent acts appear to be important. In any case,
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
this variable can be considered decisive in situations where
bullying takes place as a result of its long and short-term effects.
An increase in the number of violent videogames on the market
and the substitution of television for internet, where parental
supervision is difficult, means that the mass media must be
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