Informal Labeling and School Victimization: An Elaboration of Labeling Theory and Preliminary Results

Informal Labeling and School Victimization: An Elaboration of Labeling Theory and Preliminary Results

Fawn T. Ngo (University of South Florida – Sarasota-Manatee, USA), Jessica M. Grosholz (University of South Florida – Sarasota-Manatee, USA) and Sandra S. Stone (University of South Florida – Sarasota-Manatee, USA)
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 15
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-6246-7.ch006
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The goal of this chapter is to broaden the labeling framework by exploring the efficacy of this perspective in accounting for school victimization. Drawing data from a sample of middle school age students, this chapter examines the effects of negative reactions by teachers on the likelihood of a student's experiencing threats of violence. The authors are also interested in examining the role that perception of self-worth plays in the relationship between negative reactions by teachers and school victimization. The authors hypothesize that being put down and ignored by teachers in the classroom will affect a youth's self-image and this in turn leads to secondary victimization. The authors found that negative treatment by teachers significantly increased the odds of students' experiencing threats of violence, but contrary to their hypothesis, they did not find evidence that students' perception of self-worth mediates the relationship between negative treatment by teachers and experiencing threats of violence.
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After the recent school shootings in Parkland, Florida and Benton, Kentucky, violent victimization among school-age youth continues to be a topic of great public concern and political debate in the United States. According to data published by the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2015, students aged 12-18 experienced about 841,100 nonfatal victimizations (i.e., theft and violent victimization), which corresponds to a total crime victimization rate of 33 victimizations per 1,000 students at school (Musu-Gillette, Zhang, Wang, Zhang & Oudekerk, 2017). Research suggests that being victimized leads to further negative outcomes for school-aged children. In particular, there is evidence that frequently victimized students have lower scores in reading, mathematics, and science relative to students who are infrequently or have never been victimized. Similarly, youth who are victims of violence suffer more psychological and behavioral symptomatology (i.e., posttraumatic stress disorder, more sadness, and more school difficulties) relative to youth who have not been exposed to violence (Boney-McCoy & Finkerhol, 1995).

Closely related to actual violent victimization is the experience of being threatened with violence. According to results from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey, during the 2012-2013 school year, 6.9% of students in grades 9–12 reported being threatened on school property (Kann et al., 2014). During the 2007–08 school year, nearly half (48%) of public schools reported a student threat of physical violence and 9% reported a student threat involving a weapon (Neiman, DeVoe & Chandler, 2009). As with suffering actual violence, there is evidence that youth who experience threats of violence also suffer from a range of serious consequences, including anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, and increased risk for suicide (Branson & Cornell, 2009; Esbensen & Carson, 2009; Olweus, 1993; Rigby, 2003). Accordingly, examining and understanding the correlates of experiencing violence or receiving threats of violence among school-age youth is crucial and warranted.

Prior empirical studies on criminal victimization have generally relied on a lifestyle/routine activities perspective (Cohen & Felson, 1979; Hindelang, Gottfredson & Garofalo 1978) and Gottfredson and Hirschi’s (1990) self-control framework (i.e., the General Theory of Crime) to understand the likelihood of criminal victimization. The lifestyle/routine activities perspective emphasizes how one’s daily routine activities or lifestyles create opportunities for victimization (Miethe & Meier, 1990; 1994). More specifically, the theory posits that victimization occurs when a motivated offender comes into contact with a suitable or attractive target in the absence of a capable guardian that could potentially prevent the offender from committing crime.

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