Exploring social constructions regarding bullying between children in schools by adult stakeholders working in the British education system

  • Alexandra Boys

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


A tension between what people consider to be bullying in schools has been
identified by reviews of previous positivist research into the phenomenon.
Questions have subsequently been raised as to why there is such disparity
leading to the application of social constructionism as an alternative means of
exploring bullying in schools. The aim of this thesis was to complement the
existing literature on bullying by exploring the social constructions regarding
bullying in schools from adult stakeholders working with children in the British
education system. Four studies were conducted in total with an ethnographic
element reflected throughout where I am a practising Educational Psychologist
(EP), parent and former teacher. Three studies employed the principles of social
constructionism collecting examples of conversations conducted in a social and
naturalistic context. The first study explored a conversation between me and
my EP colleagues. The second study collected data from the staff meeting
discussions at four primary schools. The third study explored government
guidance to schools on bullying. In the final study, I shared the data collected
from my first three studies with a group of parents and the discussion that
followed completed the data collection process. Principles of the Discourse
Analytic tradition were employed to analyse the data; discursive practice
analysis, Foucauldian Analysis, Critical Discursive Psychology, Critical Discourse
Analysis and the Discursive Action Model. The analyses reflected variability in
how the different groups constructed bullying due to the contexts, histories,
cultures and experiences influencing those involved. Furthermore, each group
positioned itself as having the ‘right’ construction of bullying and as being best
placed to correct those held by others. From the analyses I would recommend
that if a child constructs themselves as being bullied the situation should be
addressed rather than debating whether it is bullying.
Date of AwardMay 2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Portsmouth
SupervisorMargaret Elizabeth Linnell (Supervisor), Treena Jingree (Supervisor) & Sherria Hoskins (Supervisor)

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