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Bullying from the perspective of middle level students: A qualitative study

Diana L Paulk, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


This qualitative study discovered and described how bullying is defined by middle level students, using a grounded theory method, resulting in a grounded theory of bullying. Numerous definitions related to bullying have been used in US studies, with little regard for the student perspective, which may compromise the validity of comparing results across studies. This study addressed middle level students' definitions of bullying via discussion groups, individual interviews, participant journals, and passive observation. Data was analyzed, and a theory of bullying among middle level students was developed using grounded theory methods. Findings were validated via triangulation of data collection, confirmatory analysis, knowledge of the researcher's personal biases, and maintaining detailed records throughout the process. Bullying was initially defined as “repeated verbal, emotional, or physical threats or harm to an individual's well being by an individual or group of individuals.” However, middle level students defined bullying as, “any behavior, whether verbal or physical, committed by an individual or a group of individuals, whether a one-time or repeated incident, with the intent to alter a social or power differential in that individual's or group of individuals' favor.” This study contributed to the literature by providing an understanding of how middle level students conceptualize bullying, and informs researchers regarding the definition(s) of bullying that will contribute to the most valid research designs in the future. ^

Subject Area

Psychology, Social|Sociology, General

Recommended Citation

Paulk, Diana L, "Bullying from the perspective of middle level students: A qualitative study" (2003). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3116601.