The missing voice: Parents' perspectives of bullying
Bullying is a complex phenomenon that is reported to be pervasive in many countries around the world (Harel-Fisch, et al., 2010; Hazler, Miller, Carney & Green, 2001; Mishna, Pepler, & Wiener, 2006). Although there is a considerable body of research on bullying, very little has been devoted to studying the perspectives of the parents of children involved. An ecological framework, whereby bullying dynamics are seen to extend beyond the children who are bullied, and include peers, teachers, the school, community, and parents (Atlas & Pepler, 1998; Mishna, Wiener, & Pepler, 2008), is essential to address the complexities involved in bullying. This study provides one of the first qualitative assessments of bullying based solely on the perceptions of parents of victimized children. In-depth interviews were conducted with parents whose children disclosed being victimized by their peers as identified by The Safe School Questionnaire (Pepler, Connolly, & Craig, 1993, adapted from Olweus, 1989). Interviews were conducted with 20 parents (2 fathers, 14 mothers, and 2 mother-father dyads). Themes that emerged included: 1) participants' definition of bullying and how they identify bullying behaviors; 2) parents' reactions to their child self-identifying as bullied; 3) parents' awareness of their child witnessing bullying incidents; 4) parents' descriptions of the effects being victimized has had on their child; 5) gender differences; 6) strategies parents suggested to respond to bullying; and 7) complexities regarding disclosure of bullying. The results of this exploratory research highlight that understanding parents' perceptions and conceptualizations is crucial to bullying research and intervention efforts, as parents' understanding of bullying undoubtedly impacts their recognition of bullying incidents and subsequent interventions.
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