The Experiences and Construing of Young People Involved in Bullying
Owen, Kate Emily
Research into bullying has been mainly quantitative, and of the few existing qualitative studies, fewer still have explored the perspectives of identified bullies. This study employs a mixed method design within a personal construct psychology perspective. The main research questions were: how do young people who bully others construe themselves and those whom they bully and what problems does bullying behaviour solve for those who bully. This was achieved by carrying out in-depth repertory grid analysis, content analysis of grid constructs and construct poles from self-characterisations. Participants were recruited from educational support centres, and were identified as individuals who display bullying behaviours. This study revealed that the participants tended to construe themselves in quite concrete terms, and as actively socially interactive. Participants construed themselves when bullying in terms of low tenderness, high forcefulness and emotional arousal. They construed typical victims in terms of high tenderness, low forcefulness and low status. The element „self when bullying‟ was found to be more elaborated and meaningful to the group than the element „self when not bullying‟. This might suggest that the participants have a more elaborated construct system in this area because it is causing them particular difficulties. Implicative dilemmas were identified for all the participants as potential barriers to change. For two participants this seemed directly relevant to understanding why their bullying behaviours may be difficult to change. Potential interventions drawing on personal construct psychology methods are discussed. One of this study‟s limitations was its small sample size, however the study shows support for using repertory grid methods to investigate bullying among young people and further research is recommended.