• Christian Lau Godskesen
4. term, Psychology, Master (Master Programme)
The present master’s thesis in psychology is a critical discourse analysis of the anti-bullying policies of several Danish public schools. Danish law requires schools to produce such policies as a part of their work to prevent and reduce the occurrence of bullying. ‘Discourses’ are understood as ways of signifying experience from particular perspectives (Fairclough 2010), and an array or ‘order’ of such partially in-commensurable discourses of bullying is assumed to exist. The aim of the study is to investigate how bullying and measures against bullying are construed in the policies, drawing on the discourses of bullying, and, further, to discuss the possible practical consequences of these constructions for pupils, teachers, and parents.
Various lines of research on bullying in schools are reviewed and considered as discourses, as are previous analyses of anti-bullying policies and literature on methods to prevent and reduce bullying. The “scientific discourses” of bullying can be broadly divided into one focused on problematic individual characters, and another focused on more or less dysfunctional group processes.
A sample of policies is analysed, focusing on a detailed analysis of a few, newer and especially relevant, cases that show signs of drawing on more than one of the previously identified scientific discourses of bullying, thus contributing to the construction of new, hybrid discourses. Of special interest are the various, mostly implicit, assumptions about the phenomenon of bullying, made in the precise wording of the anti-bullying policies, and what they are likely to mean for pupils’, teachers’, and parents’ lives.
The concept of ‘unequal power’ or ‘strength’ is found to play a central role in the construction of ‘bullying’ from various discursive “sources,” providing both a notion of its “true” form and a reason as to why teachers must not ignore the problem when it occurs. Other concepts, such ‘teasing’ and ‘conflict,’ which are assumed to cover issues that can safely be ignored, are often contrasted with ‘bul-lying’ and typically distinguished by reference to ‘power.’ At the same time, ‘une-qual power’ appears to provide only a very abstract, vague, and occasionally ste-reotypically individualised understanding of the reasons that bullying sometimes makes sense to pupils, mostly leaving out social processes in the context of bully-ing and, thus, failing to clarify “mechanisms” by which bullying might be pre-vented. Nonetheless, methods, often several, are described or merely mentioned in the policies, leaving the question of their applicability unanswered. References to ‘the peer group’ also occur with some frequency in the policies, yet this notion rarely seems to contribute much to the understanding of the causes of bullying.
The possible uses and abuses of definitions of bullying and policies in a struggle to maintain a position of assumed expertise on the issue of bullying are considered. Further, the needs of schools for help in producing anti-bullying pol-icies, and how to provide it, are discussed on the basis of recent research on bul-lying as a social practice that can provide a meaningful sense of community and shared values for the pupils participate therein.
Publication date3 Mar 2014
Number of pages95
ID: 192371970