Bullying in social context
Understanding the dynamics of how tweens get picked on in the classroom has long-term repercussions: both for the mental health of those involved, and to avoid repeating those harassment patterns in future environments like the workplace.
“Bullying should be seen as a phenomenon that arises within a social context,” explains clinical psychology PhD student Caroline Doromajian, who has been studying with William M. Bukowski at Concordia's Centre for Research in Human Development (CRDH). The school environment, the cultural context, and the peer group as a whole must be considered.
Doramajian earned a prestigious Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship, based on her earlier excellence in scholarly achievement and proven leadership, to undertake a research project investigating factors that influence children’s participation in bullying. Her research extends to the role of friendships in curbing the negative effects of bullying.
Using questionnaires, students who are targets of bullies, the targets’ defenders, bullies themselves, and those who reinforce bullying behavior will be identified, and factors related to which role they occupy will be assessed. “I want to study the functional role of peers in reducing bullying incidents and in buffering against potential mental health problems,” says Doramajian.
Doramajian has already entered the pilot project stage of her PhD. She will receive $50 000 annually through her scholarship for each of the next three years to support the research.
She is keen to contribute to effective intervention strategies to reduce school violence by promoting a sense of interpersonal responsibility within the peer group. She became interested in this particular field while doing her MA research, which looked at how peer support protects victims of bullying from depression.
She continues her studies at the CRDH. “It’s the ideal learning environment for researchers in training. I am exposed to a wide range of issues across the human lifespan, which then informs my work with children and adolescents.”
Doramajian saw some long-term effects of bullying first-hand while working in the psychiatry ward at the Jewish General Hospital over the summer. “It’s an interpersonal stressor that can exacerbate other biological or social risk factors for mental health problems.”
Her current research project may seem a far cry from her previous decade-long career as an aerospace engineer but she has found great purpose on her current path. “I get to use my analytical skills to study complex and fascinating human behaviours, and work toward solving important social problems.”