Pupils with migration background more often bullies, but also victims
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Pupils with migration background more often bullies, but also victims

Among pupils with a migration background, the figures are noticeably higher for bi-ethnic than for mono-ethnic young people. Credit: Wikicommons

Young people with a migration background are more likely to be victims as well as perpetrators of bullying at school, according to KU Leuven research.

The figures are highest for young people whose parents have a different ethnic background, according to the research, of which the results have been published in the Panopticon journal, by Jop Van der Auwera, a criminologist at the KU Leuven.

1,808 pupils from 13 different secondary schools in Flanders and Brussels, aged 11 to 21, were questioned, across all programmes in the general, technical and vocational secondary education levels.

1,114 of them had no migration background. Of the ones that did have a migration background, 368 pupils were bi-ethnic, meaning both their parents had a different ethnic background, and 318 were mono-ethnic, meaning both their parents were from the same ethnic background.

Of the youths without a migration background, 9.4% stated that they had been the victim of traditional bullying over the past year, and 5% said they were victims of cyberbullying. For pupils with a migration background, the numbers rose to 13.1% and 6.6% respectively.

4.1% of pupils without a migration background said they were the perpetrators of traditional bullying, and 1.6% admitted to cyberbullying. For people with a migration background, the numbers rose to 11.5% and 4% respectively.

Among pupils with a migration background, the figures are noticeably higher for bi-ethnic than for mono-ethnic young people. 16% of bi-ethnic pupils were victims of traditional bullying, and 12.9% were perpetrators. For mono-ethnic pupils, the figures dropped to 9.7% and 9.5%. For cyberbullying, 7.1% of bi-ethnic and 6% of mono-ethnic pupils reported that had been victims in the previous year, and 4.7% and 3.2% were offenders.

In schools with predominantly white pupils, 15.7% of pupils with a migration background reported they had been bullied, versus 6.8% of people without a migration background. For schools that are predominantly attended by children with a migration background, 20.5% of pupils without one reported they were bullied, versus 9.3% with a migration background.

A possible theoretical explanation for the difference in victimisation rate, according to Van der Auwera, is that youth with a migration background, especially the bi-ethnic ones, are labelled as ‘different’ and therefore are considered as an easy target by bullies. On the other side, youth with a migration background might see themselves as different, which results in a gap between ‘us, the minority’ versus ‘them, the majority’. Because of this, they could use bullying behaviour in an attempt to remedy this power imbalance by gaining respect and dominance, according to him.

“Other research shows that when teachers incorporate multicultural themes into their lesson plans, racism in schools decreases,” said Van der Auwera, adding that the study only shows a need to continue to focus on an anti-bullying policy discussing ethnicity and racism, reports Knack.

Maïthé Chini
The Brussels Times

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