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Toward An Understanding of Bullying Within the Puerto Rican Cultural, Social, and School Context Introduction An increase of events of school violence in Puerto Rican school has generated an interest in understanding factors contributing to aggressive behaviors. The number of threats, minor assaults, and aggravated assaults incidents in schools has risen in the last three years as reported by the Puerto Rico Police Department ( These events call for an examination of whether patterns of behaviors described as bullying are present in Puerto Rican schools and are related to incidents of school violence. Bullying is defined in the literature as a repeated behavior (including both verbal and physical behaviors) that occurs over time in a relationship characterized by an imbalance of strength and power (Olweus, 1993). School bullying has been the focus of current research as events of violence have recently risen. Most research about bullying behaviors has been conducted in Europe and the United States (Swearer & Espelage, 2004). Research on bullying conducted in other countries provides an understanding of the phenomena. However, the unique context of Puerto Rican schools requires that the phenomenon is studied taking into consideration the social-ecological systems inherent to our culture. Literature in the topic within the Puerto Rican cultural context is almost inexistent. In order to develop and implement effective bullying prevention and intervention, it is necessary to understand the social ecology that establishes and maintains bullying and victimization behaviors (Espelage & Swearer, 2004). Purpose of the study: The purpose of this study is to examine and better understand the phenomenon of bullying within the Puerto Rican cultural, social, and school context. The methodology of this study will address the following questions: Research Question 1: Is the phenomenon of bullying as described in the European and American literature present within the Puerto Rican cultural and social context? Research Question 2: How cultural norms and beliefs support or inhibit bullying behaviors in Puerto Rican schools?

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Research Question 3: How do Puerto Rican teachers, parents and students conceptualize the phenomenon of bullying? This study is conducted in collaboration with Dr. Susan Swearer from the University of Nebraska ­ Lincoln, a nationally recognized expert in the study of bullying in American schools. Methodology This exploratory and descriptive study intends to provide an understanding of the phenomenon of bullying within the Puerto Rican cultural, social, and school context. The methodology and design of the study are qualitative in nature. Qualitative studies emphasize on people's "lived experiences", the meanings that people place on the events, processes, and meanings to the social world around them. Qualitative methods will allow uncovering and understanding the phenomenon from the teachers, parents and students perspectives, an area in which little research has been conducted in Puerto Rico. Sample The sample for the study will be selected using the purposive sampling method. This sampling method allows the researcher to select a small number of individuals representative of the diverse characteristics of the study population (Denzin & Lincoln, 2003). The sample for the study will be comprised of five (5) teachers, five (5) parents, five (5) students from an intermediate school located in the north part of Mayagüez. The school is located in a largely low income area. The school is chosen due to the investigator's previous work in the school. Instrumentation The primary method of collecting data in this study will be indepth ethnographic interviews with the participants. In-depth interview is a data collection method relied on quite extensively by qualitative researchers. Interviews are useful means of gathering large amounts of data quickly and efficiently (Marshall & Rossman, 1989). The value of ethnographic interview is its focus on the participant's perspective. For the purposes of this study, interviews will allow the researcher to elicit the participants' meanings of the phenomenon of bullying. The interview questions will be based on a review of literature on bullying behaviors being currently conducted. Initial questions will be open ended questions or "grand tour" questions. Spradley (1980) describes these questions as broad, universal, overview questions. These questions are designed to capture the participants' own meanings and

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constructs. The questions are also useful at the beginning of an interview to give the interviewee a transition from general to more specific, inquirycentered questions. Procedure Teacher, Parents and Student Interviews Teachers, parents and students identified as possible subjects will be contacted by letter explaining the purpose of the study and asking for their voluntary participation. Those participants expressing an interest in the study will be contacted by phone or personally. During the initial call or visit the purpose of the study will be reviewed and a first interview meeting will be scheduled. A consent form will be reviewed during the first interview meeting, which will be held at the participant schools. Confidentiality procedures as well as the subject's right to withdraw from the study at any time will be discussed. Consent for audio taping the interview will be obtained. After answering any questions the participants might have, the investigator will ask for the subjects' signature on the consent form. Three interview sessions will be conducted with each participant. Interviews will be done by the investigator and research assistants. Identifying information will be deleted and interviews coded to ensure confidentiality. Interviews will be transcribed and analyzed using the constant comparative method (Strauss & Corbin, 1990). Results The results of study are expected to provide a basis for future directions for bullying research in the Island. It is expected to obtain information that may enrich and validate (or invalidate) current findings in bullying research conducted in the United States. In addition, it will provide information to develop or modify instruments that will allow studying the phenomenon in larger samples with quantitative methodologies. Such findings are likely to improve researchers, educators, and policy makers understanding of the complex relationship between individual, family, peer group, school community, and culture and bullying behaviors and to develop and implement intervention that is culturally sensitive and appropriate. A paper presentation in a professional meeting as well as a publication in a peer- reviewed journal will be products of this project.

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The following table provides a time line for the completion of the project:

MONTH January TASK Proposal submitted to IRB for authorization to conduct research Literature Review Develop interview questions Identify parents and teachers for interviews Begin Interviews Begin Data analysis Conduct follow up interviews Data analysis Final interviews Final report Paper preparation to be submitted in a peer ­reviewed journal Project submitted for presentation at a professional meeting


March April


Justification for release time As previously stated, research on bullying in Puerto Rico is rather limited. It is expected that this project will develop and establish a line of research in the area that would provide data to publish and secure external funds from agencies interested in school violence study, prevention, and intervention. Data collected during this study will serve as foundation to adapt and modify to the Puerto Rican culture, instruments to assess bullying. These instruments have been developed by Dr. Susan Swearer and her colleagues at the University of Nebraska ­ Lincoln ( Ethnographic research is an ideal manner of exploring and collecting data on bullying (Espelage & Swearer). As described, the methodology for this study indicates that ethnographic interviews be carried out with the participants. Ethnographic interviewing is an in-depth data collection method that requires time to be completed. Having the release of time will allow the investigator to conduct the interviews in the school settings during school hours. Also, it will facilitate to transcribe interviews and analyze data immediately after interviews. Finally, release time facilitates paper preparation and submission for professional presentations at meetings of associations such as American Psychological Association, National Association of School Psychologists and for publication in professional journals such as School Psychology Review, School Psychology quarterly.

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References Denzin, N., Lincoln, Y. S. (Eds.).( 2005). Handbook of Qualitative Research. New York: Sage. Swearer, S. M. & Espelage, D. L. (2003). Research on Bullying and victimization: What have we learned and where do go from here? School Psychology Review, 32 (3). 365-383. Espelage, D. L., & Swearer, S. M. (2004). Bullying in American schools. New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Marshall, C. & Rossman, G. B. (1989). Designing qualitativer eserach. ed.) Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.


Olweus, D. (1993). Bullying at school: What we know and what we can do. Oxford, UK: Blackwell. Rodkin, P. C., & Hodges, E. V. (2003). Bullies and victims in peer ecology: Four questions for psychologists and school professionals. School Psychology Review, 32 (3). 384-400. Spradley, J. P. (1980). Participant Observation. Chicago: Holt, Reinhart and Winston. Strauss, A. & Corbin, J. (1990). Basics of qualitative reserach: Grounded Theory procedures and techniques. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Target Bullying: Ecologically Based Prevention and Intervention for Schools. Retrieved September 20, 2006 from Violencia en las escuelas. Retrieved September 20, 2006 from das_en_las_escuelas.htm

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