Survivors of Bullying: A collective Case Study

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Survivors of School Bullying: A Collective
Case Study
Octavio Ramirez
This article explores the coping strategies of five junior-high school students with a history of peer victimization and how those strategies help them manage the effects of bullying. The data were collected using observations, interviews, and a review of school records. The data were analyzed using categorical aggregation, direct interpretation, constant comparison, and identification of patterns. On analysis, the following categories emerged from the data: identification of supportive systems, in-class strategies, premonition and environmental analysis, thought cessation and redirection, and masking. These categories were amalgamated into two general patterns: preventive and reactive strategies. The results of the study show that although the strategies helped participants to cope with the immediate effects of bullying, they did not exempt participants from the psychological and emotional implications of peer victimization.


bullying; coping skills; school; survivors; victims


o examine the growing problem of bullying in schools, it may be helpful to view the issue from the perspective of the victim and observe how children use various coping strategies to overcome the painful effects of bullying (Hunter & Boyle, 2004). It can also help us understand the implications behind the various

strategies (Hunter, Boyle, & Warden, 2002). This
collective case study explored the coping strategies
of five junior high school students and how effective those strategies were in dealing with the pejorative effects of school bullying. The findings of this study are of great importance
to school social workers because most schoolwide
antibullying programs have yielded limited success,
and some have failed altogether (Newman-Carlson
& Horne, 2004). Moreover, studies have shown that
not all coping strategies generate positive outcomes
(Kanetsuna, Smith, & Morita, 2006; MahadyWilton, Craig, & Pepler, 2000). Therefore, the aim of this study was to identify the various coping
mechanisms used by the participants of the study,
describe how those strategies were implemented,
and discuss the immediate implications of using
those strategies. Although it cannot be easily defined,
for the purposes of this study, bullying is physical,
psychological, or verbal intimidation or attack that is
meant to cause distress or harm to an intended victim (Mizell-Christie, 2003). Bullying is a problem

doi: 10.1093/cs/cdt001

© 2013 National Association of Social Workers

that nearly everyone can relate to, whether as a
bully, a victim, or a bystander (Orpinas, Horne, &
Staniszewski, 2003). In 2010, approximately 2.7 million children were bullied. The problem of bullying in schools has been notoriously linked to school
shootings and suicide attempts (Bullying Statistics,
2010). Coupled with the recent proliferation of
cyberbullying, which is the “use of information and
communication technologies with the intent to
harm others” (Li, 2007, p. 1779), and the tepid success of schoolwide antibullying programs, children must rely on coping strategies to overcome depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, feelings of vengeance, nightmares, and so forth (Bond, Carlin, Thomas,

Rubin, & Patton 2001; Bosworth, Espelage, &
Simon, 1999; Storch, Brassard, & Masia-Warner,
2003; Van der Wal, de Wit, & Hirasing, 2003).
There are numerous coping strategies used by children to regulate the stressors of bullying. These strategies can be grouped into two distinct clusters: problem-solving strategies that de-escalate and resolve

conflicts, and aggressive strategies that perpetuate and
escalate them (Mahady-Wilton et al., 2000). Examples of problem-solving strategies include acquiescence, avoidance, and instrumental coping skills. Children who use instrumental coping skills attempt

to befriend bullies in hopes of decreasing the attacks.
They also seek support from family...
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