”Why Do We Even Bully?” : Exploring the Social Processes of Bullying in Two Swedish Elementary Schools

Abstract: The aim of this dissertation is to explore and deepen the understanding of pupils’ experiences of bullying and their reflections on why bullying may occur and be maintained in school, despite pupils’ understanding that bullying is wrong. This aim is examined in four articles. The results highlight how pupils emphasise the importance of the social perception of individual pupils. Pupils may thus assume different participant roles in bullying situations to emphasise, maintain, or protect their own social position in the group, but also in an effort to reduce the risk of being bullied. The participating pupils raise the importance of social stigmatisation as a significant social process in bullying and highlight social stigmatisation processes as closely related to social perceptions of “normality” and “difference”. Social stigmatisation is, in turn, related to processes of inclusion and exclusion. The results point to the importance of the institutional constraints of the school setting in the occurrence and maintenance of bullying, not least in how pupils relate these constraints to social status, friendship, and bullying. In conclusion, the results of the dissertation highlight the importance of understanding bullying as a socially intertwined phenomenon and part of a social ecology. Not only do societal norms shape pupils’ perceptions of how pupils “should” be as a girl or boy in school, but the social contexts of schools and classrooms are also significant for what is socially valued or rejected. The results of the dissertation underline that the social ecology of bullying is closely linked to pupils’ experiences of social marginalisation, loneliness, and bullying. 

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