Introduction to the Special Issue on Significance of Race/Ethnicity in Bullying
Of the many diverse sociocultural factors and inequalities associated with the stratification of bullying is race/ethnicity. Even though interdisciplinary researchers (e.g., child and school psychology, public health, social work and counseling, sociology, criminology, and developmental psychology) have repeatedly found racial/ethnic disparities in bullying, race/ethnicity is typically not at the center of these studies. Peterson et al. (2006) argued that “current work [violence research] often fails to consider how race and ethnicity are themselves central organizing principles within and across societies” (p. 1). Research demonstrates that risk and protective factors—for instance, family socioeconomic status as well as family and peer social support—contribute to disparities linked bullying in schools and communities (Azeredo et al. 2015; Brunson and Miller 2009; Peguero 2012). Extant research findings also document that for racial/ethnic minorities, factors unique to these adolescents such as violation of stereotypes (Peguero and Williams 2013), engagement in extracurricular activities (Peguero 2008), and immigrant status (Peguero 2009) can place minority youth towards disparate likelihoods of bullying in schools and communities. Moreover, for racial/ethnic minorities, experiences with bullying also have disproportionate negative consequences to academic, health, and mental health outcomes (Hong and Espelage 2012; Peguero 2011). For example, Black/African American and Latinx youth who report experience bullying are at an elevated risk of dropping out of school (Peguero 2011).
Recognizing the importance of considering heterogeneity of youth involved in bullying, scholars over the years have investigated racial/ethnic disparities with bullying in schools and communities. In addition, bullying and aggressive peer interactions of racial/ethnic minorities, and most notably, Black/African American youth, have received considerable amount of research attention. In more recent years, there is increasing evidence that Latinx and Asian youth are also particularly vulnerable to bullying and the detrimental consequences. Thus, this special issue presents research that centers the significance of race/ethnicity towards the causes, forms, and multiple contexts of bullying.
In the lead article of this special issue, Tracy Evian Waasdorp, Amanda J. Nguyen, Mercedes Gabriela Orozco Solis, and Catherine P. Bradshaw investigate cross-national differences in bullying by comparing Latinx youths’ experiences in Mexico and the USA. In one of their findings, they reveal that the prevalence of youth who bully is similar; however, more Mexican youth reported being a victim while more US Latinx youth report witnessing bullying.
The next research study by Ashleigh Jones, Dorothy L Espelage, Alberto Valido, Katherine Ingram, and Gabriel J. Merrin titled “Examining Classes of Bully Perpetration among Latinx High School Students and Associations with Substance Use and Mental Health” provides an examination of the heterogeneity among bullying behaviors in a sample of Latinx adolescence and associations with mental health issues and substance use perceptions. They find that more severe forms of bullying perpetration for Latinx youth are associated with higher levels of internalizing symptoms such as depression and suicide ideation. In Michelle F Wright and Sebastian Wachs’ research titled “Does Ethnic Context of Schools Moderate the Longitudinal Association between Social Status Insecurity and Aggression among Latinx Adolescents?” explores the differences in social status insecurity and self-reported relational and overt aggression based on ethnic context of the schools, and how racial/ethnic context moderates the associations between social status insecurity and self-reported relational and overt aggression. They highlight that social status insecurity and self-reported relational aggression are more positively Latinx adolescents. In the following article, Shu-Tzu Huang and Rebecca A. Vidourek provide a comprehensive depiction of Asian-American bullying in the USA. In their research titled “Bullying Victimization Among Asian-American Youth: A Review of the Literature,” they highlight important and current findings regarding bullying victimization among Asian-American youth. Next, Desmond Upton Patton, David Pryooz, Scott Decker, William R. Frey, and Patrick Leonard investigate the ways in which gang violence can be mediated by the Internet. In their study titled “When Twitter Fingers Turn to Trigger Fingers A Qualitative Study of Social Media Related Gang Violence,” they find racial/ethnic decoding and importance of context when interpreting the social media communication of Black and Latinx youth.
Finally, Kris De Pedro, Holly Shim-Pelayo, and Christopher Bishop highlight the importance of intersectionality in association with bullying, particularly in regard to race/ethnicity and gender identity. In their study titled “Exploring Physical, Nonphysical, and Discrimination- Based Victimization among Transgender Youth in California Public Schools,” they expose disparities in race/ethnic-based discriminatory peer bullying between transgender and non-transgender youth were greater among Latinx students.
The research included in this special issue addresses a range of aspects of bullying in schools and communities which are being shaped by a growing diverse youth population. The various articles touched on family, schools, neighborhoods and communities, and the presence of social media. However, common to all of these articles is an understanding of the negative consequences for racial/ethnic minority youth, and the importance of connecting racial/ethnic minority youth to social institutions and relationships as well as provided opportunities and protection. Thus, each of these articles takes care to identify points for intervention, suggestions for policy, and promising directions for future research. Each study presented in this special issue stands out for its original and noteworthy contribution to the literature on the significance of race/ethnicity in regard to bullying research.
Future research should further expand our understanding of bullying, youth violence, and justice for one of the fastest growing segments of the population—racial/ethnic minority youth. The growing number of racial/ethnic minority youth present both a challenge and an opportunity for increasingly diverse schools, communities, and societies. There are two specific areas of future research that is clearly warranted in bullying research. First, as reflected in the last manuscript of this special issue, there is a clear need for intersectionality in future bullying research. Intersectionality is a conceptual approach to studying the relationships across multiple dimensions and modalities of social relationships and subject formations such as gender, race/ethnicity, and socioeconomic status (Crenshaw 1990). As denoted by Peguero (2012), the inequalities of bullying can cut across many sociocultural identities such as gender identity, sexual orientation, immigration, religion, and ability. Although there is a growing body research about the distinct bullying vulnerabilities that marginalized youth endure, these identities often intersect for vulnerable youth. Second, the growing prominence of hate within schools warrants more scrutiny by bullying researchers. In a recent article by Huang and Cornell (2019), they report there has been an increase in teasing, harassment, and bullying associated with race/ethnicity since 2016. They indicate that sociopolitical climate around race/ethnicity has become more toxic within schools and warrants further examination. It is also clear that marginalization of LGBTQIA youth (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer [or questioning], intersex, and asexual [or allies]), Muslim youth, immigrant youth, youth with disabilities, and other vulnerable youth should be the focus of more research in order to facilitate their safety and well-being via policy recommendations.
To that end, it is also important for me to add that is it has been a pleasure to read these manuscripts, engage with the researchers, and see these research articles through to publication for this special issue. I deeply thank the contributors for their patience, attention to details, and timely effort, and commitment towards contributing to this special issue. This special issue sought out to highlight innovative studies on the significance of race/ethnicity in association with bullying. Finally, I also want to express my gratitude to the editors Sameer Hinduja, James O’Higgins Norman, and Mairéad Foody for their effort, flexibility, and confidence with my guest editorship with this important topic for their journal.
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