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School Violence Driven by Social Exclusion

Abusive parents, internet and TV violence, and social exclusion are all contributing to growing violence in schools, with verbal aggression being the most common type of aggressive behaviour among young people, according to Irina Sizova, Head of the Sociology Laboratory at the HSE Branch in Nizhny Novgorod.

School violence has always been fairly common, but recently the situation has been getting worse. Children who come from families with different social and economic backgrounds tend to clash in schools. The situation is further aggravated by society’s low respect for the teaching profession, leaving schools even more vulnerable to the spread of violence.

Sizova examined a number of factors contributing to school violence by analyzing data from a survey of school students conducted by the Lobachevsky State University in Nizhny Novgorod between 2012 and 2013 as part of a broader study of violence in schools; the survey sample included 1,500 students from grades 5 to 11 aged 10 to 18, representative of different types of schools, such as general schools, gymnasiums and lyceums, and schools offering advanced courses in certain subjects.

In addition to the survey data, Sizova used her own unstructured observations of school life. She published her findings in the paper 'Social and cultural factors contributing to the escalation of violence in Russian schools" in Social Work.

Every Child Can Face Violence

Over the past few decades, different types of schools have emerged, such as gymnasiums and lyceums, alongside regular general schools. According to Sizova, socially disadvantaged children whose parents are poor, uneducated or marginalized, e.g. because they are immigrants, usually attend regular general schools, and this type of schools is particularly affected by youth violence, as opposed to the gymnasiums and lyceums attended by children from more affluent families.

Overall, the study has found that youth aggression is commonplace in Russian schools, and each of the surveyed students has practiced or experienced some form of violence at least once while at school.

According to the study’s findings, youths aged 15 to 16 (i.e. students of grades 9 and 10) are more likely to behave violently than other age groups. While verbal aggression remains the most widespread type, physical violence and psychological pressure are also common in Russian schools. Aggressive acts against teachers, theft and vandalism have also been reported, but these are less common.

Domestic Abuse Affects School Atmosphere

The study identified a few factors that may contribute to the spread of violence in Russian schools today. Abuse experienced by students at home was found to be a major and fairly common factor; the study found that one out of four students were subjected to corporal punishment at home regularly or occasionally for misbehaving, while one out of five faced beatings for poor academic grades. 29% of the students had witnessed fights between parents, while one out of ten students witnessed family fights regularly.

According to Sizova, exposure to mass media violence is another major factor leading to aggressive behaviour. "Children exposed to horror and violence in TV shows and computer games, and those viewing pornography on the web are particularly likely to engage in violence," Sizova notes.

In addition to domestic abuse and violent media messages, Sizova identified a number of other factors contributing to school violence, such as substance abuse, lack of social skills, poor motivation for learning, and low self-esteem.

Schools Need to Act to Prevent Violence

According to Sizova's observations, Russian schools tend to resist outside interventions and thus are unlikely to seek external assistance with the violence problem. Meanwhile, about a quarter of school students are likely to watch a fight without trying to stop it and may even encourage the fighters. Only some 30% of violent incidents in schools are brought to the attention of the school principal or the teachers' council, while the majority of such incidents are ignored, according to Sizova.

She believes that schools need to take urgent steps to create systems for conflict resolution, social skills training and after school activities for young people of various ages.

 

Author: Marina Selina, July 08, 2015