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The classroom as context for bullying

A social network approach
PhD ceremony:Mr J.A. (Ashwin) Rambaran
When:September 23, 2019
Start:14:30
Supervisors:prof. dr. D.R. (René) Veenstra, dr. M.A.J. (Marijtje) van Duijn
Co-supervisor:dr. J.K. (Jan Kornelis) Dijkstra
Where:Academy building RUG
Faculty:Behavioural and Social Sciences
The classroom as context for bullying

School bullying is a complex social problem as it involves the characteristics of the perpetrator, the target, and the social context. Recognizing that bullying is relational―who bullies whom, this dissertation uses a social network perspective to study the impact of classroom characteristics on bullying and defending relationships, focusing on classroom structure and stability, and on social relations and social norms. Based on data from Dutch elementary school students, the findings from four different studies show that the examined classroom characteristics have a small impact on the formation of victim-bully as well as victim-defender relationships. No evidence was found that younger children are more likely to be victimized by older classmates, either in multigrade or single-grade classrooms. Bullying relationships were found to develop most easily between children in the same grade, more so in stable classrooms than in classrooms with changing classroom composition, with no clear evidence that newcomers are more at risk of becoming victimized. The finding that bullies tend to become friends and bullies influence their friends to bully, provided further evidence for group processes in bully-victim networks. Examining the relationships between victims and their defenders, it was found that regardless of the number of bullies in the classroom, defending is primarily driven by the direct positive relationship between victim and defender, and to a lesser extent by the shared relationships with other classmates. This dissertation provided more insights in the dynamics of network relationships and school bullying.